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A Strike Looms at Slate

The online news site has hired Trump's favorite law firm Jones Day to break the Slate Union

Brian Young's picture
Dec 14, 2018

In January 2018, editorial employees at Slate voted to join the Writers Guild of America (WGA) East. This victory came after 10 contentious months of union busting from management. Nearly one year later, negotiations with Slate have broken down and the employees have voted to authorize a strike.

On Tuesday, December 11, 98% of the editorial employees at Slate voted to authorize a strike unless a contract is reached. The vote comes after talks between WGA East and Slate broke down when the company began making insane demands. One such demand was that the union would be forced to work under Right to Work or Open Shop conditions, even though Slate’s offices are in New York and D.C. Both New York and DC do not have Right to Work laws for private sector employees.

A company demanding that the union give up the right to collect fair share dues is indicative of the belief by management side lawyers that it is open season on unions. While some weaker unions might accept this language, WGA East and the Slate union employees are not willing to set a precedent here by giving away their rights. Instead, they are willing to walk out and go on strike to preserve their bargaining power.

According to the Slate Union Twitter account, Slate has hired Jones Day to represent the company in negotiations. Jones Day is a massive law firm that has been hired by a number of media companies in recent years to weaken union contracts or stop organizing drives altogether. The law firm also has deep ties to Trump. According to campaign finance filings, in the three-month filing period that ended in September, the Trump Campaign paid nearly $2 million to the firm. Trump has also hired at least 14 of their attorneys to fill key roles in his administration, including Donald McGhan who served as Trump’s General Counsel and helped lead the confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

This is not Graham Holdings’, the parent company of Slate, first time using Jones Day. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, Graham Holdings hired Jones Day to negotiate a union contract with the union at Foreign Policy magazine. The staff of Foreign Policy is represented by the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. In that negotiation, Jones Day demanded that the contract include Open Shop or Right to Work language in the contract. The News Guild lost that battle and Foreign Policy is now an open shop.

UCOMM and Bloomberg have both reached out to Graham Holdings and Slate for a comment on their decision to hire Jones Day, but the company has refused to respond. The union said in a statement that they are considering possible days for a strike and that they are united against accepting a contract with open shop language.

The move by Slate to hire an extremely anti-union law firm is especially disheartening considering the fact that their editorial page swings left. They have written numerous pro-union stories and called the basis for the Janus case laughably spurious. By continuing this anti-union campaign that is being run by Trump acolytes not only is the company pissing off their workers but they are losing readers.

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