The Rundown

Billionaire CEO Shuts Down Gothamist and DNAinfo, Union Mobilizes in Response

Your guide to workers rights, what’s working, what’s not and what you can do about it.

by Impact Staff
Nov 7 2017, 11:00pm

Photo by NYC Central Labor Council via Twitter

Last month, newsroom employees at local New York media outlets DNAinfo and Gothamist — which include satellite locales in DC and Chicago officially unionized despite company owner and billionaire Joe Ricketts's refusal to recognize their organizing efforts. Following the New York employees joining the Writers Guild East Union, Ricketts announced that he shut down both sites. For nearly a week, anybody trying to visit DNAinfo or Gothamist got redirected to a letter by Ricketts explaining his decision for the closings.

Ricketts makes the claim that the decision was purely financial. "…DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure," Ricketts wrote. Ricketts's excuse that the sites were not profitable enough seems suspicious given that the union formation and closure of the businesses happened one week apart.

Ricketts has been extremely vocal about his distaste for unions and even wrote about his reasons for being anti-union on his personal blog. However, workers rights advocates argue that his actions are more than just a calculated business move and are both a suppression of the working class and the free press—which has become a polarizing issue in the age of Trump given his antagonistic relationship with the media.

What you can do:

The Writers Guild East Union that represented DNAinfo and Gothamist — which is also the union for VICE, Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost and other digital media outlets — responded to Ricketts action with a statement released via Twitter.

The union remains committed to helping the former employees with recourse and pursuing their rights, and on November 6 the Writers Guild East held a rally at City Hall Park in New York to demand justice.

The pressure from the protest seems to be working. As of November 7, the websites for both DNAinfo and Gothamist no longer redirect to Ricketts's letter and instead the archives have resurfaced online.

If you believe in that all workers --especially press-- should have the right to form unions to organize for better work conditions the support labor unions like Writers Guild East and the companies that encourage them.

And then some:

The official term for subverting labor organizing is union busting, and the former employees at DNAinfo and Gothamist aren't the only ones who's lives are drastically affected. NYC Council member for Queens, I. Daneek Miller spoke about the unfairness of Ricketts's retaliation against his newly unionized staff as well as NYC Council Member for Brooklyn Stephen Levin.