Reporter Mike Elk has been bold about promoting unionization at his employer, Rosslyn-based Politico. He has chatted up colleagues, tweeted a whole bunch and written staff-wide memos celebrating unionization progress at other young media organizations, such as Gawker and Salon.
Now the union stalwart-cum-reporter is placing his work before a new audience.
Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took questions from reporters during an appearance today at an event of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers at the Washington Hilton. “Workers have the constitutional right to associate in unions. That right is being abused day and night; that has got to change,” he said in response to a question.
Elk was there, with an inquiry about unionization among media organizations in general …
ELK: Sen. Sanders, Mike Elk, Politico. Speaking of the issue of union neutrality, and card check — there’s been a lot of organizing drives in the media industry, there’s been a lot of intimidation recently in new media. Do you think it would help the media if it was better unionized?
… and a question about Politico unionization in specific:
ELK: And do you think media owners should agree to card check neutrality including my own at Politico?
SANDERS: Ha, the answer’s yes….You’re raising two issues. You’re raising media consolidation, you’re raising the issue of unions. It is hard to have a vibrant democracy, where people are hearing all kinds of ideas from different perspectives, when you have a handful of multinational corporations controlling the flow of information. And to a very significant degree, that is the case right now. For example, there have been studies out there taking a hard look at how the Trans-Pacific Partnership was covered and to the degree that it was covered. And the result is there was almost no coverage on network news about the most important trade agreement in the history of this country. Is that an accident? Who determined that the TPP, covering 40 percent of the world’s economy, was not a significant issue? So I very much worry about media consolidation. I think all workers in whatever area — it’s not just the media — do have a right to form a union without harassment on the part of their employers.
We’ve asked Politico whether it’s okay with Elk pressing public officials on unionization at his employer.
And just what “intimidation” was Elk citing? He told the Erik Wemple Blog via e-mail, in part: “It’s not even as overt as necessarily intimidation. People know not to speak up in the workplace about anything. Why do you think so many 23 years old on the other side of Robert e lee highway are working 60 hour weeks on the regular. People are taught in media at a young age that they should feel lucky to have a job and not speak up about their conditions.”