DNAinfo and Gothamist Shut Down One Week After Editorial Staff Unionizes
This time last week, reporters and editors at New York City local news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist were celebrating after voting to unionize with Writers Guild of America, East in an NLRB-conducted election. Now, they are without jobs, as the billionaire owner of both sites, Joe Ricketts, shut down both news outlets at 5 pm on Thursday. All articles vanished from the websites, leaving readers with a short post announcing the decision to down the outlets. The decision affects not only the recently-unionized staff in New York, but a total of 115 workers at the company’s local outlets in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
DNAinfo and Gothamist were merged in March after Ricketts acquired Gothamist. In April, the staff announced their intention to unionize, as a majority had signed cards to join WGAE. Ricketts declined to recognize the union, waging an anti-union campaign that included a thinly-veiled threat in an email that a union might lead to Ricketts choosing to shut down the two sites. Roughly 25 NYC elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, wrote a letter in support of the workers, and the union went forward with last Thursday’s NLRB election. Now, the workers are left without jobs, and the company is offering three months of administrative leave at full salary and a month of severance. In addition to the obvious loss of jobs, the shutdown leaves New York City without two sites that covered local neighborhood news.
The Writers Guild of America, East issued the following statement: “Today’s shutdown of Gothamist and DNAinfo is an attack on unions and journalism—two bodies that are essential for our democracy to be able to hold those in power accountable. This is an attempt to silence the truth and it’s the beginning of a coordinated attempt at union busting and attacking labor organizing. We will not stand for it. We must continue to stay united and fight for fairness for all. Local news—like the dogged, tireless reporting that was done every day at Gothamist, SFist, LAist, Chicagoist, DCist, and DNAinfo—is more critical than ever. We are with the workers and journalists who unexpectedly lost their jobs today and encourage them to not be silent.”
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