Websites Shuttered After Employees Vote to Unionize

union vote, Naperville business law attorneyWhen you run a business, you have a number of priorities, including providing quality products and services to your customers. Of course, profitability and sustainability are also important because operating a business at a net loss does not make sense for the average business owner.

As a business law attorney, I understand that the quest for profitability often presents an owner with difficult decisions— many of which are not always well-received by employees and customers. Such was the case earlier this week, as a popular internet news network has been closed down in the wake of a vote by reporters and editors to join a union.

“Hyperlocal” News Outlets

In 2010, billionaire Joe Ricketts—whose family owns the Chicago Cubs—founded the site DNAinfo to cover neighborhood news in the boroughs of New York City. DNAinfo expanded to Chicago in 2012. Unlike other news sites, DNAinfo was an experiment in “hyperlocal” media, with portions of each city’s sites and social network channels devoted to specific neighborhoods and communities.

Ricketts strengthened his position with the addition of the Gothamist network of blogs in March of this year, which included the Chicagoist. Gothamist and Chicagoist were branded the official blogs of DNAinfo New York and DNAinfo Chicago, respectively.

A Crucial Vote

Shortly after DNAinfo acquired Gothamist, reporters and editors at the networks agreed to join the Writers Guild of America East, but Ricketts would not recognize the union. Late last month, however, the National Labor Relations Board held a formal vote in which 25 of 27 New York workers voted to join the Writers Guild. The result of the vote mandated that management of the networks bargain with the union.

One week after the vote took place, Ricketts issued a memo across all of the associated sites saying that they were being shut down permanently. The memo stated, “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.” Ricketts went on to say that sites’ financial progress has not been sufficient to create sustainability. The memo made no mention of the Writers Guild or the vote to unionize.

The decision to shutter the sites has been met largely with disappointment from readers and former employees. Financial analysts, however, recognize that advertising revenues have been moving away from more traditional news outlets in favor of organizations like Facebook and Google in recent years.

The Impact of Unionization

If your employees are considering unionization, you are likely to have questions about what that might mean for your company’s future. Contact an experienced Naperville business law attorney for guidance regarding your options. Call The Gierach Law Firm at 630-756-1160 today and schedule your confidential consultation with a member of our team.



Crain’s Chicago Business

New York Times

Robert Feder