Tag Archives: collective action

Three Words Behind the Gawker Union: What About Us?

“What about us?” was what Gawker reporter Hamilton Nolan asked as he wrote about talk of Vice workers forming a union. Nolan’s beat is work and jobs, but the subject resonated with him at his job.

What followed came fast. Nolan spoke with Justin Molito of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), who talked him through the nuts-and-bolts of organizing a union.

Nolan and others at Gawker didn’t wait for the full old-school process, though. The next thing Molito knew, Nolan and others had posted a meeting invitation on Facebook. Forty people came. The next morning a bunch of Gawker writers were posting about their desire for a union.

“This is something we waged publicly, because that’s how Gaw

From left to right at the table: Freddy Kunkle of the Washington Post talked about organizing among skeptical media workers while NewsGuild-CWA organizing director Tim Schick and Hamilton Nolan of Gawker look listen.

From left to right at the table: Freddy Kunkle of the Washington Post talked about organizing among skeptical media workers while NewsGuild-CWA organizing director Tim Schick and Hamilton Nolan of Gawker look listen.

ker operates,” Nolan said. Then something rare happened. Instead of resisting the idea, Gawker CEO Nick Denton agreed to a private ballot vote. On June 4, about 120 Gawker workers voted to unionize by a margin of 3-1.

This Wednesday afternoon, Nolan and Molito joined NewsGuild-CWA organizing director Tim Schick and Freddy Kunkle, co-chair of the Washington Post unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild for a discussion on at the AFL-CIO on organizing in digital media. The News Guild has been organizing in new media for 20 years and counts about 2,000 new media members.

Gawker workers wanted to publish at every step along the way, beginning with an early position piece on why workers there wanted to organize. That openness continued with a public discussion of how people planned to vote and why.

“It can almost be a tutorial for organizing,” Nolan said.

He’s not kidding. The discussion is frank, and even raw at times. The workers literally wrestle out issues in real time.

“If new media industry is going to grow up—and it is growing up—we need to do this,” he said.

If you’re interested in organizing at your workplace, please take this survey. Or you can simply email me. I’m a member of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild.


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Filed under News and Commentary, Unionism

Why Do You Feel Broke? Hint: It’s Not Taxes

The other day, on my way to work, I listened to a podcast rant about the 99 percent and the Citizens United decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

You know the deal, right? The 2010 decision held money to be free speech, which is how the Supreme Court kicked open the door to unlimited spending by corporate-funded interest groups. The decision is offensive and laughable, but mostly it’s ironic, in the sense that it purports to uphold our cherished First Amendment when in fact everyone knows that it OK’s corruption on a grand scale and undermines our democracy.

The rant, by a guest on the hilarious and thoughtful WTF with Marc Maron (probably my favorite podcast at the moment), had a kicker that seemed clever until it stopped me in my tracks: If money is free speech, then all of us in the 99 percent are speechless… and that’s what we should all say to the IRS on April 15.

Wait. Put the brakes on! Screech!

Why… as a nation… do we still think that we feel broke because we pay taxes?

Taxes… I’m not kidding… do nothing but enrich us!

Taxes give us great value. Government spending is the one place where we enjoy the ability to truly purchase top-quality goods and services in bulk, which is how we buy air traffic control systems and a justice department and highways and bridges and education so cheaply. Just imagine if you had to buy all that as an individual. Right? Only the 1 percent would be able to afford any of that.

The truth is simple. Each dollar we pay in taxes returns to us time and again, and the best part is that the value comes to us when we want it or need it—when we want to borrow a book from the library, or when in a panic we dial 9-1-1 for the police or the fire department… when we file for unemployment because we lost a job….

I’ve heard people complain about moving up a tax bracket, because it means more dollars would go to the Internal Revenue Service. Make sense? No! We should be grateful we moved up a tax bracket! That means we’re making more money! And we when we make more money, we have more money!

And that brings me back to the comedian on WTF….

We feel broke not because we pay taxes but because we, collectively, haven’t had a raise in years.

Or worse.

I don’t know about your job, but I know an awful lot of people who have taken it in the teeth—with lay offs or pay cuts or furloughs or other financial punishment over the past decade, and especially since the beginning of the Great Recession. The national numbers are startling, but honestly this is one of those times when almost everybody’s anecdotal evidence matches the broader trend.

It’s time for us to demand fair pay for the work we do, especially because the Great Recession has been a fantastic bonanza for America’s wealthiest.

The Occupy movement and all the talk of the 99 percent is great. It’s been a breath of fresh air for someone to make a sustained racket for the 99 percent.

Take a moment to understand why you feel so broke…. And then let’s lift our basic rhetoric to the next level. Demand a raise from the employer who has used you to become the 1 percent. Let’s leave them speechless.

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February 5, 2012 · 10:13 am