Chung stood in front of the newsroom and delivered a set of prepared remarks. In an audio recording of the meeting that a DNAinfo reporter shared with me, Chung says that she’s heard there’s been talk of unionizing, and that staff members should “just know what you’re getting yourself into.”
“When you sign the union card, you give up the right to speak for yourself, because the union is going to be speaking for you,” she added, and continued, “You may have heard that joining a union automatically gets you higher wages, better benefits, if you sign the card. That’s not how it works.” The staff had known this speech was coming; the same meeting had been held in the Chicago office the day before. In New York, Noah Hurowitz, a reporter for the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, told me, the staff wore all black in protest, and said nothing from the time Swartz and Chung began to when they left the room. Toward the end of the meeting—before she and Swartz headed to Brooklyn, to deliver the same remarks to the Gothamist newsroom—Chung tried to engage the assembled DNAinfo staff, saying, “So, I’m sure some of you have questions . . . ” In the recording, this remark is followed by several seconds of ambient static as the room remained silent.
Dobkin, the publisher of Gothamist, did not participate in the meeting, but over the months that followed he began having one-on-one lunches with members of his staff. One Gothamist reporter who attended such a lunch in June, and took notes afterward, said that Dobkin told him, “I think Joe Ricketts says what he means,” and “It sure would be horrible if everybody lost their jobs because of what you guys are doing.” The reporter added, “There’d be a lot of eyebrow-raising, like, ‘Do you know what I mean?’ ” Another former Gothamist reporter who attended a lunch in May told me, “It was textbook union-busting stuff.”
The whole article is a must-read and a depressing reminder of the state of local media.