Open letter to Slate: I like your content, but I won’t be a scab.

I have been a big fan of Slate’s content.

That doesn’t mean that my political views are encompassed within the circle of Slate’s political boundaries. They aren’t. But there are plenty of people at Slate whose writing and whose podcasts I find to be knowledgeable, informative, and thought-provoking. Slate has been one of the four mainstream or left-of-stream sites which I regularly open in the morning. (The others are WaPo, TPM, and I subscribe to eight Slate podcasts, and I listen to the episodes when I have time, although there is really no way to keep up with them all.

All this time I have been a free rider, but I had just about gotten to the point where I was about to plop down the money to become a Slate Plus member, not so much because I want an additional increment of premium content as because I have started to feel like I really should be paying for all this stuff that I am consuming. In fact the word “Slate” is now in number two position on my iPhone To Do note, which means that I would probably, today, have sent you a payment. If, that is, I had not seen this:

This article, which is not without quotes and evidence, may still, of course, be a gross distortion of the truth. I hope it is. I would like to hear that it is. I would like to hear and believe that the enterprise I was about to send money to is not also at the same time acting like a boss. And not in the “like a boss” way which is somehow a complement, but in the way that says, “I will recognize my workers’ rights to organize and bargain when I am forced to do so at gunpoint by the federal government, but not a minute before.”

In an email quoted in the above cited article, Jacob Weisberg, whose “Trumpcast” is one of my go-to podcasts, is quoted as saying that unions foster “a culture of opposition” and that he doesn’t believe unions and their influence to be “Slate-y”. Weisberg may sincerely believe that Slate is just too special and familial a place for unions, but I find this idea to be very depressing in its ordinariness. In fact it completely reflects what has been said by so many tens of thousands of bosses across the panoply of industry. I can’t think of a single boss who has ever seen a bunch of organizers come into their office asking about union recognition, and who has said “oh, yes, come right in, this will be a marvelous part of our corporate culture!” If that has happened once, I don’t know about it. Henry Ford didn’t think unions would be “Ford-y.” The coal bosses didn’t think the mines were a good place to organize. Principals and boards of education always think that teachers are betraying their little charges when they organize, and hospitals thought and think today that unions are an obstruction of the mission of healthcare and downright anti-Hippocratic. To my mind, the “culture of opposition” to unions is quite widespread already, even or especially where there aren’t any.

The Trump administration is dripping with anti-union ideology, and rightly so. People have been asking “why Trump won” all year, but one reason which I think hasn’t gotten enough play is the near-complete vitiation of the labor movement in the US (with, of course, bright and heroic spots, but the overall proportionate decline in numbers and power of the union movement has been terrible). This has come about as the result of decades and decades of deliberate refabrication of the physical and organizational structure of business in the US, including the internationalization of its supply, manufacture, and distribution chains, and the fragmentation of its corporate structure, in order to make it as impossible as ingenuity could achieve for workers to organize anywhere. Unions and the working-class consciousness they generate have been the best hope of the working class to fight off the racism and xenophobia which have been Trump’s stock in trade — yes, I’m well aware that unions’ role and stances on many issues have often been pretty objectionable, and that they have often betrayed the diverse working class that it was their job to defend, unite, and advance, but it was their job, and with them out of the way, whose job is it?! In acceding to union power in one little shop Slate would actually be concretely siding with the resistance against Trump and his corporate backers (who are not all in Russia btw). On the other hand, I give the right-wing media about ten minutes to catch on to this story and start hooting at Slate as a pack of liberal hypocrites and enemies of the workers in particular as well of “the people” in general. Not a good look, Slate! Something to avoid if possible!

I hope Weisberg also recognizes the irony of the fact that even before Trump got in office his present party had gone a long way to gut, disempower, and anti-unionize the National Labor Relations Board which Slate is now apparently willing to make the sole arbiter of its workers’ rights. Like it or not, Slate is now potentially relying on Trump and his baleful influence on the NLRB as their bulwark against their own workers. So, Slate, I would like to urgently request you to rethink this.

In the meantime, my plans for a Slate Plus membership are on hold. Past that, I haven’t yet decided whether it’s politically right for me to consume Slate’s content as I was doing, or whether I should make a deliberate choice not to be a free rider on this particular train for the time being. Maybe I will just see what taste is in my mouth on any particular morning.

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