I’m a big fan of irony. Not the 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife or the rain on your wedding day type. Actual irony — particularly of the political sort — is officially awesome.
Take “The Young Turks.” If you’re a casual consumer of political media and don’t venture outside of the conservosphere, you might not have heard of the massively popular YouTube show or the producers’ wider network of content.
If you have, it’s probably because of the highlights of their epic 2016 election night meltdown, which has become a favorite viral video for conservatives looking to relive the panic that night induced in so many people on the left.
At the moment, “Young Turks” co-host Cenk Uygur is running for Congress as a far-left candidate. He was briefly endorsed by Democratic presidential candidate and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont until people noted Uygur’s history of misogynist remarks and the endorsement was retracted.
As a whole, however, TYT is still very supportive of Sanders, given that this is a ship lilting very much to port. They’re also pretty huge, given the fact they get 200 million views a month on YouTube.
Surely they’d be down with their post-production staff’s announcement last week that they were seeking to unionize, right?
Not so much.
When we announced our decision to go union with @IATSE over a week ago, we had hoped @TheYoungTurks would respect our choice and voluntarily recognize our union. We are dismayed to report that they have refused. #TYTlive
— TYTUnion (@TYTUnion) February 21, 2020
“A week after TYT Union was formed to represent production and post-production workers at the popular liberal channel, the group announced that company leadership had refused voluntary recognition of the union,” The Washington Free Beacon reported Friday.
“The refusal, which comes after Sanders proposed penalizing companies that refuse to recognize unions, is the latest instance of a left-leaning news outlet resisting unionization among its employees,” the report said.
According to a news release from the union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, on Tuesday, a majority of employees at TYT signed union cards. At that point, the union asked for recognition from TYT management and was denied.
Under current law, when 30 percent of a company’s workforce signs union cards, a secret ballot is set up by the National Labor Relations Board. If the vote succeeds, the company has the choice of whether to recognize the union.
The Young Turks did not.
However, if TYT’s favored candidate is elected, that’ll change if he has his druthers.
According to Sanders, “when a majority of workers in a bargaining unit sign valid authorization cards to join a union, they will have a union. If employers refuse to negotiate in good faith, we will impose strong penalties on those companies.”
In a tweeted statement, the IATSE expressed its dismay.
“This is a disappointing decision from an organization that presents itself as progressive,” the union said. “Join us in telling [The Young Turks] to respect their so-called principles and respect their workers!”
Today, @TheYoungTurks refused voluntary recognition of the TYT Union. This is a disappointing decision from an organization that presents itself as progressive. Join us in telling @TheYoungTurks to respect their so-called principles and respect their workers! #1u #UnionStrong https://t.co/FCz4LHF8Wu
— IATSE (@IATSE) February 21, 2020
Yet, reading the original statement from the IATSE, you wonder what these workers’ grievances actually were.
“We’re proud to work behind the scenes at TYT to create online content that’s bold, entertaining, and unapologetically progressive. There is no other news and talk network quite like TYT, and the perspective our network brings to its political coverage is resolutely pro-justice and pro-worker,” the employees said in a statement.
“We’re proud of our content, and we’re proud, too, to put into practice in our workplace the values that our work helps bring to the screen every day. In our decision to go union, we join the wave of recent organizing in digital media, and we stand in solidarity with the renaissance of labor activism we see now in workplaces of all kinds throughout the country.”
Not that I’ve ever been a fan of organized labor, but this new wave of union activism feels somewhat different from the old days.
Working for The Young Turks is hardly “Harlan County, USA”-type stuff. The employees’ reason for unionizing seems to be that they’ll be in a union and that makes a political point. Nice work, I guess.
This isn’t how digital media works, though — and anyone who gets involved should probably be acquainted with the realities of an industry that shifts with profound rapidity. This is one step removed from unionizing a startup.
The great irony here is that TYT is stumping for a candidate who’s going to punish them severely if they refuse to unionize.
They won’t be the only outlet on the left that feels the pain, either.
Before it imploded late last year, far-left thought-hovel ThinkProgress fired its entire unionized staff. The Center for American Progress, which owned the site, said it would be “transitioning ThinkProgress back to its roots as a site that offers analysis on policy, politics, and the news” after it couldn’t find a buyer. The transition would have involved non-union writers. (They eventually decided to shelve the relaunch, given the fact the site was losing money like that drunk guy who hangs around the gas station buying scratch-offs in between cigarettes.)
BuzzFeed, meanwhile, endured a walkout when unionizing employees were frustrated with their company’s delay in recognizing the union and their conditions on who could join.
— Eric Morrow (@morroweric) June 17, 2019
Left-wing publication Vox also had a walkout last year.
The Vox Media Union has walked out today. Here’s what it looks like in the New York office. pic.twitter.com/erPp4fW1nw
— Vox Media Union (@vox_union) June 6, 2019
All of which is to say that left-wing media don’t necessarily practice what they preach when it comes to organized labor. And if you’re on the left, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In this case, capitalism won. TYT, at least for the moment, realizes that whatever blowback they receive is probably going to cost them less than unionizing workers in a business that shifts rapidly. If they stick by their decision, they’ll have more resources to dedicate to content, which in turn creates more money and more jobs — and more exposure for left-wing ideas. That’s how it works.
That’s not how unions want it to work. To a certain extent, their message is this: “All right, I’m aboard. Pull up the lifeline.”
Hardcore union activists don’t trust that the health of the company will lead to their financial gain. They believe the company exists for their financial gain. There’s a big difference.
The Young Turks, it seems, realize the realities of the situation.
It’s good to see them putting their money where their mouth isn’t.
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