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Union Busters of the Day


It’s not easy for a corporation to lose a unanimous decision from Donald Trump’s NLRB, but Hearst is apparently very special:

When the editorial staff of Hearst Magazines decided to form a union with the Writers Guild of America, East, they expected some resistance from their powerful employer. But Hearst made it clear, early, that it would go to particularly aggressive lengths to try to prevent a union. In meetings, company leaders and attorneys told workers spanning a wide range of job descriptions that they were all supervisors, and would break the law if they signed a union card. “They told me, verbatim, that if I didn’t trust them, I didn’t have to work there,” one employee told Intelligencer last November. In December, the WGAE filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company.

On Friday, Hearst’s anti-union campaign received a major blow. The National Labor Relations Board ruled against each objection it raised to the bargaining unit proposed by the WGAE and ordered a union election. It’s a total loss for Hearst, made doubly resonant by the fact that conservatives currently control the NLRB — the company couldn’t have designed a version of the NLRB more likely to rule in its favor, and it still lost.

Hearst had advanced three major arguments against the WGAE’s bargaining unit. Of the three, one is a fairly common site of conflict between employers and unions. Hearst wanted to classify six employees as management, which would exclude them from the bargaining unit; the WGA disagreed. For Hearst, this was an easy way to try to shrink the unit, which would save the company some money and weaken the unit’s overall power. The company’s other two arguments are a bit more unusual. Hearst had asked to split its workforce into six separate bargaining units based loosely on geographic location and editorial focus. It argued further that the presence of a mysterious Hearst International Employees Association prevented employees from organizing a new union with the WGA. None of these arguments impressed the NLRB. The board concluded that the six alleged managers were not managers at all, and that Hearst had misrepresented certain key facts about its brands. In order for Hearst’s octopus-limbed bargaining units to make legal sense, the media properties in its portfolio would have to operate in distinct silos. Magazines in the “Health & Lifestyle” category would have little or nothing to do with magazines in the “Home & Family” category. In fact, Hearst brands collaborate with each other often, and in some cases even share employees, the NLRB found. Hearst’s proposed editorial categories — Home & Family and Health & Lifestyle, among others — are also recent inventions, created in response to the union effort, and don’t reflect long-standing company practices.

I suppose one can’t blame them for assuming a Republican majority NLRB would let them get away with literally anything, but LOL.

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