The News Guild, a division of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) representing print journalists, is attempting to organize writers at New York, a New York City-based high society magazine with the trendy left-liberal politics of America’s “SuperZIPs.” But while 80 percent of staff were ready to unionize (according to the union’s assessment of its “card check” drive), one prominent writer, Jonathan Chait, is a lot more skeptical of the potential effect of CWA in the workplace.
His explanation for opposing the union drive (available at his public-facing Facebook page) is a coherent explanation for why a left-liberal in good standing might not want a union in his workplace. Chait writes:
For people working at institutions that do not turn a profit, I find unions sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Unions for police officers and teachers frequently protect their worst members from accountability, at the expense of the public interest. I’m pretty sure New York does not make money, or at least not enough that profit is the reason for the investment of time and money by the owners. That doesn’t rule out having a union, but to me, it raises the bar. (Again, this consideration is irrelevant to those who believe all workers in principle should have a union.)
It’s a simple fact that unions raise the cost of doing business—that’s the point. So in a workplace where profit margins are low (or nonexistent) a union’s wage demands can put existential strain on a job site—and on the jobs of all the workers. (Chait’s points about the potential negative effects of police unions and teachers unions follow in line with CRC’s analyses of these problem-actors in local politics.) We’ll see whether Chait extends the considerations he offers to himself and his liberal magazine employer-benefactors to restaurant owners and workers; the typical restaurant profit margin is approximately five percent, very low by the standards of other American industries.
And the Newspaper Guild-CWA would align New York writers with some of Big Labor’s most aggressive factions. The union also creates an implicit conflict of interest for journalists covering races in which CWA has made political endorsements. CWA was the first national labor union to endorse far-left U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primaries. In fact, the union and its associated PAC, CWA Working Voices, spent $303,000 in non-coordinated independent expenditures supporting Sanders’ campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And it has also aligned with the “Democracy Initiative,” a convening of left-wing groups described by social-democratic magazine Mother Jones as a “massive liberal plan to remake American politics.”
Chait might not mind such a plan, but his cautions against unionizing his own workplace apply to many others. More glory in heaven for a sinner who repenteth, if only for one shop.