The Blog

Why are Huffington Post, The New York Times and Harper's so Anti-Union?

1:15 PM, Mar 18, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Of course, the answer to that particular rhetorical question is obvious: Economic reality. Still, the brazen hypocrisy here is, well, delicious. The Newspaper Guild is calling for unpaid Huffington Post writers to strike:

The Newspaper Guild boasts 26,000 members and is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The CWA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

The strike was called earlier this year by the membership of Visual Art Source, whose 50 members had previously contributed content for free to the site.

“Just as we would ask writers to stand fast and not cross a physical picket line, we ask that they honor this electronic picket line,” wrote the Guild.

“This is about supporting the quality and integrity of a vehicle for progressive expression, to actually help Huffington Post succeed, but on the right terms,” wrote the Guild. “We call on Arianna Huffington to demonstrate her commitment to the working class she so ardently champions in her writing.”

And speaking of progressive union champions, after The New York Times went to the mat for unions in Wisconsin, they also found themselves being attacked by the Newspaper Guild last month:

The Newspaper Guild is lashing out at The New York Times, saying the newspaper wants to cut pay and benefits for its unionized edit staffers even as it gushes about the quality of its journalism.
 
Talks have begun to replace the current contract which expires March 30. According to the Guild, Times management wants to freeze wages, eliminate overtime pay, increase the workweek and be able to assign employees to work across any of its platforms.

Interestingly enough, the Times has had problems with union corruption in recent years, though that's unrelated to it's unionized editorial staff.

However, perhaps the most noteworthy case of a publication's liberal editorial stance crashing headlong into the shores of new media realities is the venerable Harper's, where employees are trying to form a union to prevent staff cutbacks. The owner of the magazine, John MacArthur, who's politics are for the most part dictated by the size of his impressive trust fund, wants to make cuts to prevent further hemorrhaging millions on the lefty magazine. And so he has no choice but to repudiate is pro-union views by trying to bust up a union among his own employees:

In a follow-up phone call, MacArthur told Rosenstein that he viewed the union as a “power play” by the staff. “He was very hostile,” Rosenstein told me. “He said people had lied and misled him me about the reason they wanted to form a union, and that the staff was angry about Roger Hodge being fired. This was about Ben Metcalf becoming editor and they were against Ellen.”

MacArthur contested the entire staff's right to unionize, arguing that editors and assistant editors who make up about half of the editorial team were management and thus did not qualify. Staffers couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony: The staunch defender of unions, who in a 2009 Harper's piece called the UAW “the country’s best and traditionally most honest mass labor organization,” was now on the other side of the table as the "worst kind of factory owner," as one staffer put it to me.

MacArthur hired veteran employment lawyer Bert Pogrebin, who had previously faced off against the Village Voice union, to negotiate on his behalf. In August, the matter was taken up by the National Labor Relations Board. Pogrebin tried to get many of Harper’s' editors, including Metcalf and senior editors Donovon Hohn and Chris Cox, excluded from the union on the grounds that were in management positions. In September, the NLRB ruled that Metcalf and the others could join the union. In October, the NLRB denied MacArthur’s appeal, and the union went ahead with plans to hold elections that would certify the union. Staffers put up signs around the office and a ballot box was placed in the conference room.

Funny how it is that everybody on the left is pro-union right up until the point that the paychecks have to be signed.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers