Commentary

'Politico' Publisher Argues Against Newsroom Union Drive

The pandemic’s negative effects on newsroom employment pushed more journalists to seek greater financial stability by unionizing. A group of workers at political newspaper and website Politicoare pushing to form a union, an effort that its publisher opposes.
Robert Allbritton, the founder, publisher and executive chairman of Politico last week explained his objections to the unionization effort in a email sent to employees. Max Tani, media reporter for the Daily Beast, posted the missive on Twitter.
“My strong wish is that most Politico journalists will conclude after studying this question that a union is not in the publication’s interests, our readers’ interests, or interests of individual employees,” Allbritton wrote.
He cited three main reasons for opposing unionization, including the workplace inflexibility that could come with a collective bargaining agreement.
“If there is any signature of Politico, from its earliest days to the present, it is that we have moved quickly and creatively to respond to new circumstances,” Allbritton wrote. “In my experience, a union means that decisions like this take more time and are less creative and less fun in the execution.”
Politico’s unionization effort, which was first reported by Axios, follows a year when a record 1,800 journalists joined the NewsGuild or Writers Guild of America, up from 1,500 in 2019. This year, workers at Bustle Digital Group, NowThis and Conde Nast’s Wired magazine – and tech workers at The New York Times – have formed unions.

Amid the surge in unionization among digital newsrooms, the Writers Guild last month decided to pause those efforts while assessing its membership. The guild traditionally had represented screenwriters, but has successfully organized journalists in recent years, Poynter reported.
Allbritton said he wasn’t philosophically opposed to unions, having worked with union members during a previous stint in broadcasting. He also said Politico needs to improve its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, among other priorities on its agenda.
“If I though a union would advance the completion of this agenda, I would be enthusiastic,” he wrote. “But everything I have learned in many years of mostly civil interactions with unions leaves me convinced that a union would make acting on this agenda harder.”

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