The Legal Situation of DNAinfo and Gothamist

A week after DNAinfo and Goathamist unionized, its owner put the two publications out of business entirely. A lot of people have contacted me to ask whether this is legal. I don’t know all the details involved, but it probably is legal.

The key case here is Darlington Mfg. In that case, the NLRB had initially ruled that you cannot shut down a business in retaliation for union activity, but then the Supreme Court overturned that decision:

We hold that so far as the Labor Relations Act is concerned, an employer has the absolute right to terminate his entire business for any reason he pleases…

This rule holds only for completely closing down a business. It is a different story when an employer does a partial closing, a temporary closing, or moves the business elsewhere. In those cases, if the actions are done for retaliatory reasons, they may be illegal. But if a boss just ends the existence of a business altogether, there is no recourse.

6 thoughts on “The Legal Situation of DNAinfo and Gothamist”

  1. It’d be hard to definitely prove retaliation either, since the business was running perpetual losses. Only difference might be that he’d just take it to chapter seven instead of simply shutting it down if Darlington was not there.

  2. How does NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co. Apply in this case and why is darlington more applicable in this case?

  3. Let’s also not forget:

    “But in the financially daunting era of digital journalism, there has been no tougher nut to crack than making local news profitable, a lesson Mr. Ricketts, who lost money every month of DNAinfo’s existence, is just the latest to learn.”

    https://www . nytimes . com/2017/11/02/nyregion/dnainfo-gothamist-shutting-down . html

  4. It’s probably legal, but it’s definitely collective punishment. In Colombia they shoot trade unionists. Here they just say “we don’t do business with your kind.” But it’s not coercion unless someone has a gun to your head, right?

  5. I don’t believe successful monetization of real journalism is possible. Even theoretically possible. I’ve become convinced that legit journalism is a merit good, in the extreme.

  6. Hard to say given how upside-down our economic system is in tax policy. But either way, expecting someone who lost money every single month to suddenly shoulder even higher salaries in this environment is ludicrous.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of unionization, but it is hard to make the case that this was ‘retaliatory’ and not simply dealing with economic reality in our dysfunctional system.

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