November 15, 2017
There is power in the union: The Writers Guild of America sucessfully negotiates concessions from Joe Ricketts after the closure of DNAinfo and Gothamist
by Simon Reichley
Not quite two weeks after it was announced that billionaire bison enthusiast and big-time fucko Joe Ricketts was shuttering DNAinfo and Gothamist, Josh Eidelson, a labor reporter for Bloomberg News and Businessweek, has reported via Twitter that the Writers Guild of America East has concluded negotiations on behalf of the recently unionized staffs of both publications. According to Eidelson, sources at WGAE have confirmed that the union “has reached agreement providing 3 months of benefits; 4 months of pay” and “members’ ‘right to use their own work,’” and that members will not be required to sign non-disparagement clauses.
According to reporting by Andy Newman and John Leland, employees had initially been offered a package that included three months of pay, four weeks severance and nothing else.
Eidelson also reports that the new agreement “resolves the issue of possible ULP [Unfair Labor Practice] filings,” with the National Labor Relations Board.
While it remains a huge bummer that two of New York’s most important local news outlets have been closed down by a capricious plutocrat, the whole episode stands as a reminder that labor unions, even in defeat, can be a potent defense against greedy ownership. As we’ve written before, the wave of consolidation currently washing over our media demands a response, and if workers, writers, and journalists are to have some stake in whatever dark future awaits, a commensurate increase in labor power is desperately needed.
This episode must ultimately be counted a loss by employees and by readers, but it surely gives the lie to Ricketts’s inane claim that unions introduce a “corrosive dynamic” that “destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed,” and that they have generally outlived the historical moment that birthed them. Indeed, it seems very clear that the only corrosive elements here are Ricketts’s ill-concieved cosolidation and his toxic disregard for the security and wellbeing of his employees. As any cursory review of income inequality and corporate influence would demonstrate, our current moment isn’t really that alien from the “bumpy ride” of late-nineteenth-century capitalism, when “the relationship between ownership and labor was often out of whack.”
Fuck you, Joe Ricketts. And long live the union.
Simon Reichley is the rights and operations manager at Melville House.