Of Course Jonathan Chait’s a Scab


After a union-busting push by the management of New York magazine, workers at the outlet announced today that they voted to unionize with the NewsGuild. And almost immediately, one of the magazine’s most high-profile writers threw his coworkers under the bus.

Staffers announced the move in a letter many posted on Twitter:

“For years, some employees have been paid well below media standards,” the letter says. “Benefits constantly change and don’t meet our actual needs. Salaries vary significantly between people who hold the same position, and career development is either nonexistent or inadequate. Across the board, employees know the best chance to earn a raise or promotion is to get a job offer elsewhere. All of this only exacerbates an already troubling lack of diversity in our newsroom.”

Happy workplaces can and should start unions, but as far as reasons go, all of these seem pretty good!

But Jonathan Chait, the magazine’s resident dipshit neoliberal columnist, wasn’t so pleased:

To be clear, the letter laid out a lot of problems that are common for media workers and proposed a solution. It wasn’t mean or personal, although it had every right to be, considering the conditions described in the letter as well as the anti-union push by management. The notion that it was “crapping all over” Pam Wasserstein, the CEO of New York Media, and the top of the masthead is ridiculous on its face, unless you’re the kind of person who considers organizing a personal affront to bosses.

Gonna go out on a limb here and say that there’s likely nothing anyone in the union could have done to assuage Chait’s “concerns” about the dangers of unionizing a magazine that clearly has money. Considering the high stakes here for his coworkers, it’s straight up cowardice.

It’s reasonable, for example, to assume that Chait makes substantially more than many of his junior colleagues. And that problem with diversity in the newsroom? Not much of an issue for the white guy who’s written approximately nine million words about free speech politics on college campuses.

But ultimately, none of this is all that surprising coming from a columnist who’s spent years vacillating between bashing unions and half-assedly defending them from full-throated reactionary attacks. Here’s Chait’s handwringing when he was doing the absolute bare-ass minimum to defend the right of teachers’ unions to exist in Wisconsin during the Act 10 debate back in 2011:

Teachers’ unions have taken a well-deserved beating in the court of public opinion. Steven Brill’s influential 2009 New Yorker story about the battle for education reform, the 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman, and piles of less famous journalism and research have shown the deleterious effects of teacher tenure in public schools. The debate has rapidly moved past any reasonable question about the defendants’ guilt and into the sentencing phase. Walker proposes the death penalty, and Republicans hope others emulate him.

All of this in and of itself is bad for someone who considers themselves to be a mainstream Democratic columnist, but come the fuck on, man. Have some respect for the people around you. These are the 20 and 30-somethings who keep the lights on while you prepare your next treatise on why the Oberlin Intersectionality Club is the biggest threat to free speech in America. Don’t be a goddamn scab.

Disclosure: Splinter and the rest of Gizmodo Media Group are represented by the Writers Guild of America East.

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