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Gawker staffers considering unionizing

Gawker staffers considering unionizing

Pass the popcorn.

Yesterday Gawker Media’s staffers announced their open flirtations with unionization.

While union strongholds nationwide are diminishing in favor of greater employee choice and right to work, Gawker is hoping to be the first online publication subject to union demands.

Hamilton Nolan explained why he finds unionization appealing because he wanted to get ahead of the gossip. Yes, really. But then what is Gawker if not gossipy?

Every workplace could use a union. A union is the only real mechanism that exists to represent the interests of employees in a company. A union is also the only real mechanism that enables employees to join together to bargain collectively, rather than as a bunch of separate, powerless entities. This is useful in good times (which our company enjoys now), and even more in bad times (which will inevitably come).

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve never been employed by an entity with unionized employees. But when you live in a great right to work state like Texas, that whole organized labor problem solves itself.

Perhaps I’ve been exceptionally fortunate or maybe it’s because I’ve always understood my roll as an employee is simply to complete the job I was hired to do, but not once in my professional life have I encountered a workplace situation where I thought, “Gee, a hoard of angry people picketing, striking, and demanding the boss capitulate is a GREAT idea! Let’s do that!” Nor have I ever felt I needed the assistance of groupies to convey a point. I’ve never felt ‘powerless’ because my expectation of work was not to garner power, but to do a job, and then get paid because I did the job I was hired for. I’m also not a pansy.

But I digress… back to Nolan’s union rationale:

Though our company is relatively well run, pays relatively competitive salaries, and treats its employees relatively well, there are still certain issues that many employees would like to see addressed. We would like to ensure everyone receives a salary that is fair for their time at the company and the work they do. We would like to ensure that things like pay and raises are set in a fair, transparent, and unbiased way. We would like to have some basic mechanism for giving employees a voice in the decisions that affect all of us here.

HOMOGENIZE ALL THINGS! Heaven forbid someone working harder make more than the slack in the corner. Alas, the entitlement generation is upon us, vomiting their special snowflake insecurities all over the workplace. “Fair, fair, fair, fair!” they cry, having yet realized that nothing about life is fair.

Every time I hear this crowd wax poetic about fairness, I’m reminded of one of my favorite stories from Occupy… New York, I believe it was.

Occupy cooks were graciously serving Occupiers three square meals per day, for free. Protestors uptwinkled and took their trust-fund baby, 99% selves back to their drum circles to enjoy their free meal (or at least that’s how I imagined it). And then the homeless people showed up. As the homeless began to partake in the free meals, the Occupiers were enraged. How dare they enjoy a free, hot lunch! “That’s so UNFAIR!” they wailed. “Don’t the homeless people know the free food is for us lowly 99%ers?!” And so the Occupiers responded not with fairness and kindness to their 99% brethren, but by serving bland, pitiful food in an attempt to drive away the undesirables.

Point being, the Occupiers were jerks. Just kidding. Well, kind of. Most of those I chatted with at the time were good-hearted, but wrong-minded individuals, hungry to be part of anything bigger than themselves. But the point of this story is simply that fairness is relative. The more ‘fair’ any society tries to become, the less fair the result. Though I suspect this is something Gawker will have to learn the hard way, like the Occupiers did.

Nolan’s third reason for wanting a union is simply to be first purely online publication to hold that distinction. “There are plenty of companies in this industry whose workers could desperately use the help of a union. If we can show that it’s possible, I hope that a positive precedent will be set,” he writes.

What would a Gawker Media editorial union look like? That’s a fantastic question, and one that currently has no answer. “The final shape that the union might take, and who exactly will be in it, and what specific goals it will pursue all remain to be seen,” says Nolan.

We need a union!
Why? What would that accomplish?
I don’t know, but we need a union!

But Gawker’s pro-union crowd isn’t greedy or anything. Nope. They just want to make things more… wait for it… fair. “Nobody is seeking to hurt this company, or plunder it for all it’s worth, or find a way to attack the people that run it. We’re just trying to make it a bit more functional, and a bit more fair.”

You gotta give it Nolan though; it’s hard to be so honestly self-contradictory.

Meanwhile, Legal Insurrection is proudly a union-free zone. Unless of course we’re writing about unions, then we’re not. But you get the point.

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I have paid union dues on occasion without joining. When you work in union shop, your employer is the union, not the company you think you work for. You are essentially a contract employee, like working for a temp agency.

There are times an places where this is not a bad thing. If the work is hazardous, for example. But unions can create bad times bu squeezing out all the fat in corporate finances, so that when the recession hits, the company goes belly up.

Every workplace could use a union.

Nonsense !!
Plenty of companies/workplaces do just fine without a union. Likewise, plenty of companies, workplaces, cities, went belly up “thanks” to unions.

A union is the only real mechanism that exists to represent the interests of employees in a company.

Bull !!!
I don’t need no thugs taking my money to act as middlemen. If I ever do, a lawyer will do just fine.

A union is also the only real mechanism that enables employees to join together to bargain collectively,

What a load !!!
Who told these people that everybody wants or needs collective bargaining? Collective bargaining leaves individuals powerless to negotiate their own individual terms. Instead, the individuals have to take whatever the mob thinks it’s appropriate. (and on top, pay dues to the mob)

KM from Detroit | April 17, 2015 at 9:08 am

I worked for a few years in a local public school district, as a technical/junior-IT staffer, and we were forced to join AFSCME (this was before Snyder opened Michigan up as a right-to-work state). We were coerced into signing the union membership cards with basically “You don’t want to join, you go find another job.”

Any time that people trumpet unions as being about worker protection, I like to point out that the only thing I got from union membership was a higher hourly wage that went straight into dues, so my take-home was the same; and the chance to get written up by the senior IT staff. Three times.

For trying to be helpful in the elementary school I was assigned to, the more entrenched unionized thugs decided I was infringing on THEIR jobs and so I got in trouble.

So no, in my experience, unions aren’t about making things “more fair,” or protecting workers, or any of the other rationales expressed in the article Kemberlee posted. They’re for protecting jerks and making sure other people don’t even try.

Unions can be useful and needed in work situations that involve sweat shops and overbearing employers. But, for the vast majority of Americans, they just add a second set of bosses in the work place. Unions now represent only about 6% of private sector workers, they number is down from about a third in the 1950s. To bolster unions, the NLRB has just come up with a “quick election” rule, designed to deprive employers of the time to inform employees of the negative side of unionization. At the same time, in new right to work states, public employees have been abandoning unions and union dues in large numbers. What’s wrong with today’s labor movement? For one thing it is very political, in effect belonging to a union is belonging to and supporting an arm of the Democrat party, one that is frequently out of touch with, and cares little about, what its members want. There are also excesses. The President of the Steelworkers makes over 200,000 a year and his union spent over 1,000,000 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last year. Do you think they were working diligently at the casino hotel? Only about 20% of what the Steelworkers took in went to representational activities. The number of employees working at union HQ in Pittsburgh making over 100,000 a year is astonishing.

nordic_prince | April 17, 2015 at 10:22 am

Unions are just the adult equivalent of the schoolyard bully demanding a cut of your lunch money – pay up, and then they’ll consider leaving you alone ~

I don’t have a problem with people joining a union.
I have HUGE issues with being forced into a union or lose the job. when injured and working under comp laws you can’t just quit and try to find another job when your small open regional airline gets bought out by a unionized airline.
you are screwed.
I have a huge problem with unions getting laws passed that say if the are present they represent ALL employee bargaining even for non-union employees.
I never understood why anyone thought it was right to force me to allow an entity I don’t belong to take care of my wage/benefit bargaining.

As in everyday life, the devil is in the details.

What starts out as an exercise in collective bargaining winds up after a few years as a stultified stratification of jobs, responsibilities and penalties that winds up killing innovation and creativeness along with choking down anyone newer who is willing to do more for less and demeaning anyone who even attempts to do a little more because it makes sense.

Unions punish not only the employer but the employee especially the newer hires. Unions stifle a business faster than a government regulation.

Granted it will take a little bit of time (say one full contract cycle) for the full effects to be felt but they will happen and they will make things worse not better.

Unions are all about coercion not about freedom.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | April 17, 2015 at 10:37 am

Trade unions were needed to offset the monopoly power of the “robber barons” who were exploiting workers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

But almost all of the important gains they achieved are now law: child labor is prohibited; OSHA standards help ensure worker safety; overtime pay is required; and on and on.

The point is we are now in the 21st century and many of the important gains achieved by trade unions have been enacted into law. Trade unions were so successful that they are now victims of their own success.

As far as public sector unions go, I happen to agree with FDR that they are not much more than a conspiracy against the taxpayer.

MouseTheLuckyDog | April 17, 2015 at 11:41 am

In a related incident:
for some reason LI ignored the Ellen Pao lawsuit. Ellen Pao was a junior partner in Kleiner Perkins et al ( a prominent high tech VC firm ) who filed a sexual discrimination suit. It was the high point of liberal Silicon Vally media until it turned out that Pao was just an asshole who pissed off everyone at KP.

Recently Pao, now interm CEO of Redit, announced that in order to combat gender inequity in salaries, salaries at Redit will no longer be negotiated!

Midwest Rhino | April 17, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Public unions need to be pry barred out of our government. They’ve bloated many departments, turning them into working welfare with early golden pension, and/or an army of Democrat operatives of the Lois Lerner kind. The incompetent can’t be fired, the hard worker with ideas is slowed down and told to wait for their turn in the seniority line.

Caterpillar survives somehow, but they have branched out of Peoria, IL to other states, as Boeing did. But as I understand it, most government contracts are arranged so only union shops are able to get the bids.

More than 85 percent of the construction industry is not unionized. While the ruling is not a mandate, it encourages agencies to require union labor on any projects with more than $25 million in federal funding.

PLAs require that all contractors who want to bid pay union wages and benefits. They effectively prevent non-union shops from bidding.

The “prevailing wage” thing is another issue, as we down-staters have to pay about double the local wage on some jobs, based on Chicago union prices I guess.

“We would like to ensure everyone receives a salary that is fair for their time at the company and the work they do.”

Uh-huh. It’s been my experience that in general, people believe they are worth far more than their actual value to their employer.

There are occupations where having a union is a good thing – providing you don’t HAVE to join or pay dues if you don’t want to. What I find interesting is in states where the union dues are taken out of your paycheck. I just don’t know how that became the norm. I know why, but not how. Teachers in Wisconsin now have the right to not join since Wisconsin became a right-to-work state. Results of that? One third to one half of teachers are now non-union. Dues collections from members are way down to due to the fact that teachers have to send checks every month. Union leaders relied heavily on automatic revenue, but now they are in a sweat. Their salaries are in jeopardy. Now, if union leaders agree to take salaries in accordance with what teachers are paid, I might get some respect for them.