Union-supporting publisher of lefty Harper's magazine trying to bust up his own union 

Ace of Spades highlights this rather amusing article from New York magazine about the plight of the foundering Harper's magazine. John MacArthur, publisher of the lefty opinon magazine, is pouring millions of his own dollars into magazine as he refuses to embrace an internet strategy for the magazine. Now he wants to make staff cuts. In order to protect against staff cuts, the employees are trying to form a union, which MacArthur is trying to prevent, even though as a good lefty he's on record as a staunch union supporter:

In a follow-up phone call, MacArthur told Rosenstein that he viewed the union as a “power play” by the staff. “He was very hostile,” Rosenstein told me. “He said people had lied and misled him me about the reason they wanted to form a union, and that the staff was angry about Roger Hodge being fired. This was about Ben Metcalf becoming editor and they were against Ellen.”

MacArthur contested the entire staff's right to unionize, arguing that editors and assistant editors who make up about half of the editorial team were management and thus did not qualify. Staffers couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony: The staunch defender of unions, who in a 2009 Harper's piece called the UAW “the country’s best and traditionally most honest mass labor organization,” was now on the other side of the table as the "worst kind of factory owner," as one staffer put it to me.

MacArthur hired veteran employment lawyer Bert Pogrebin, who had previously faced off against the Village Voice union, to negotiate on his behalf. In August, the matter was taken up by the National Labor Relations Board. Pogrebin tried to get many of Harper’s' editors, including Metcalf and senior editors Donovon Hohn and Chris Cox, excluded from the union on the grounds that were in management positions. In September, the NLRB ruled that Metcalf and the others could join the union. In October, the NLRB denied MacArthur’s appeal, and the union went ahead with plans to hold elections that would certify the union. Staffers put up signs around the office and a ballot box was placed in the conference room.

Oh shadenfreude, you capricious sprite! Take it away, Nelson Muntz:

 

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Mark Hemingway

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