Walk the talk

Liberal shmiberal – union-busting at the NY Times:

Last April, 650 tech employees at the New York Times announced that they were unionizing. Rather than applauding them and proceeding to negotiate a contract, the company instead refused to voluntarily recognize the union. This is despite its own editorial board supporting a bill that would have made it legally binding for employers to voluntarily accept union requests when they are backed by a majority of the staff.

As the paper’s own editorial explained: “Under current law, an employer can reject the majority’s signatures and insist on a secret ballot. But in a disturbingly high number of cases, the employer uses the time before the vote to pressure employees to rethink their decision to unionize.” Now, this is what the New York Times company is accused of doing to its own employees.

Since last year, the Times has been accused of trying to scare workers into changing their minds – to sow division among the employees, divide the unit, and erode support for organized labor. Last week, federal labor regulators claimed that the company had broken the law by telling large swaths of employees that they were actually “managers”, and that they were therefore prohibited from publicly supporting the union.

“Liberal” is often used as a synonym for “left-wing” or “progressive” in the US, but they’re not really the same. Unions aren’t really a liberal cause these days. Not sexy enough…as well as of course having to do with redirecting a little of the wealth from the bosses to the workers, when lots of liberals are bosses or allied with bosses.

The New York Times gets away with a lot. They are the journalism equivalent of the supreme court. They offer prestige, big budgets and job stability at a time when those things are in short supply in this industry. The half of our country terrified by Trump sees them as an army of truth, and everyone in media wants to work there. (Call me!) But let’s be honest: the people who control the New York Times company are acting like real weasels.

It’s not just that they are hypocritical, yammering about the public good while acting from pure selfishness – it’s that they want to have it both ways. While more outwardly evil media bosses like Rupert Murdoch may be proud to embrace their Ayn Randian reputation, those who lead the Times want to be accepted as good people on the Brooklyn-brownstone cocktail party circuit, even as they quietly try to stop those who work for them from having an equal seat at their tastefully appointed table. Screw that.

I think Hamilton Nolan is exaggerating the keenness of Times people to be seen as liberal. The news side is keen to be seen as non-partisan, and the editorial side is very mixed – there are plenty of conservatives and “centrists” along with some a little more leftish. The Times is more establishment than it is liberal.

I have covered hundreds of anti-union campaigns. No matter where they happen, they are all based on lies and fear. Whether they happen at an Amazon warehouse or at the New York Times, they are a demonstration of contempt for the idea that an employee may deserve to be treated as someone whose humanity is just as real as that of an employer.

Respectable people don’t engage in union-busting. People who run anti-union campaigns are not Good Liberals. Hundreds of workers raising their voices have not been enough to convince the New York Times executives to act right. Maybe it’s time to stop inviting them to the cocktail parties.

Ok, but I think it’s either naive or hyperbolic to say the Times sees itself as composed of nothing but Good Liberals.

3 Responses to “Walk the talk”