WGA East, SAG-AFTRA Protest Over Closures of DNAinfo, Gothamist in New York

More than 300 people have rallied in Manhattan to support writers at the recently shuttered New York news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist.

The event, held at New York’s City Hall Park, took place Monday — four days after billionaire Joe Ricketts announced he had shut down the sites. The Writers Guild of America East had announced on Oct. 27 that the editorial staffs at the DNAinfo and Gothamist had voted to unionize.

The event was emceed by WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson, who invoked the final words of labor activist Joe Hill and said, “We come not to mourn, but to organize.”

Speakers at the rally included DNAinfo writer Ben Fractenberg, Gothamist reporter Emma Whitford, Gizmodo Media Group’s Brendan O’Connor, SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, NYC Central Labor Council president Vincent Alvarez, public advocate Letitia James, comptroller Scott Stringer, and Manhattan Borough president Gale Brewer.

Ricketts said in the Nov. 2 memo that he had decided to close the sites due to poor financial performance. “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” he added.

In September, Ricketts had said in a post on his blog titled “Why I’m Against Unions at Businesses I Create” that “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”

Peterson said Monday that Ricketts may have violated federal law by closing down the sites. The WGA East said on Oct. 27 that in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, 25 of Gothamist/DNAinfo’s 27 editorial employees voted in favor of the WGA East as their representative in collective bargaining.

“Joe Ricketts needs to come clean,” Peterson said. “Did he violate the law by firing people because they exercised their right to unionize? Or did he decide the business wasn’t generating enough profit, and then try to score some ideological points by blaming his employees and their union? Either way, these journalists do work that is essential to communities across New York, and the WGAE will make sure their rights are protected and their voices are heard.”

Carteris also spoke at the rally, saying, “This closing of these news organizations is a travesty. SAG-AFTRA stands in solidarity with the Writers Guild of America-East and the extraordinary journalists of Gothamist and DNAist who are standing up for our federally protected right to collectively bargain. We are with you.”

The WGA East reps digital news staffs at Vice, HuffPost, the Intercept, Gizmodo Media Group (Splinter, Gizmodo, Jezebel, Deadspin, the Root, Lifehacker, Kotaku, io9, Jalopnik, and Earther), ThinkProgress, MTV News, Thrillist, and Salon.

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