Chicago Cubs Owner Joe Ricketts Shuts Down DNAinfo and Gothamist, After NY Staff Vote to Unionize

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Chicago Cubs Owner Joe Ricketts made a strong statement against unions this month by shutting down two independent news websites he owns, after employees a the Gothamist voted to unionize.

The two websites, DNAinfo and Gothamist, had been under threat of unionization for some time, and recently the workers at Gothamist had actually voted to join a union. But as the owner of the two sites, Ricketts had previously warned employees that he would shut the sites down if they voted to unionize.

Ricketts even penned a recent article on his personal blog to explain why he opposes unions. Ricketts wrote, “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”

Indeed, in a recent article in The New York Times a spokesperson for DNAinfo said, “The decision by the editorial team to unionize is simply another competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful.”

Still, the official reason for shutting the sites down was that they were not profitable.

In a statement on the shutdown, Ricketts said that the decision came down to economics:

DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” the statement said. “And while we made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded.

The Writer’s Guild of America, though, slammed the shut down saying that it was just retaliation for threats of unionization and that they intend to pursue actions against the site owner:

However, while laying off individual employees to forestall unionization is illegal, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed that shutting down a whole business to end the threat of unionizing is a business owner’s right.

In a 1965 decision from Textile Workers Union v. Darlington Mfg. Co., the highest court in the land noted, “We hold here only that, when an employer closes his entire business, even if the liquidation is motivated by vindictiveness toward the union, such action is not an unfair labor practice.”

So, it seems unlikely that the Writer’s Guild will have any grounds to force Ricketts to revisit his decision.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.


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