Well, they were warned:
DNAinfo and Gothamist have shut down just days after unionizing
November 2, 2017 | 5:22 PM
Every single article from local news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist–including all of their subsidiary sites–has been taken down and replaced with a message from their owner, Joe Ricketts, informing the public that both companies are shutting down. This comes just days after the editorial team successfully joined the Writers Guild of America, East.
Ricketts, it seems, is no fan of unions and decided to shut down the venerated hyper-local news publications. Ricketts writes in his farewell note:
But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure. And while we made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded.
It seems employees were caught off guard with this news–many have tweeted their sadness and dismay. To add insult to injury, Ricketts seems to have scrubbed all the sites’ archives. It’s unclear if this scrubbing is temporary, but it must feel like an insult to the editorial team that spent years writing thousands of well-reported articles.
There’s more at the original. The Writers Guild Of America, East, the union organizers, said that threats were made concerning job security during the union organizing drive, and it looks like those were not empty threats. The New York Times reported that owner Joe Ricketts wrote to employees, saying “As long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business.”
DNAinfo’s chief operating officer, Dan Swartz, wrote an email to the staff around the same time, wondering: “Would a union be the final straw that caused the business to close? I don’t know.” DNAinfo had laid off several employees before buying Gothamist, and laid off several more after. . . . .
Of the management’s threats to shut down the sites, (Katie Honan, a DNAinfo reporter who covers Queens and was part of the organizing effort,) said, “We took them seriously, but we still really thought that unionizing for us was the best way to do what Mr. Ricketts wants to do — to collaborate and combine these two sites to really cover New York.”
The Times reported that 25 out of 27 workers voted to unionize, but now tells us that 115 people are actually being put out of work.
Emma Whitford, a Gothamist reporter, said that organizers from the union assured the workers that threats to shut the sites down were just “textbook union-busting tactics.”
Of course, the union organizers didn’t lose their jobs, did they? They could tell the Gothamist people whatever they liked, and if it went bad, it still wouldn’t hurt them.
Workers have every right to unionize, but owners have every right to shut down their companies if they believe that to be the right thing to do.
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