Union Bust(le): Ahead of Purchase, Mic Purges Unionized Newsroom

Photo by   Rochelle Hartman

By David Brand

Another union-busting media company has bulldozed a New York City newsroom.

On Thursday, the news and entertainment website Mic fired its entire editorial staff hours before Bustle Media Group, which owns the online women’s magazine Bustle, announced it had purchased Mic.

Bustle bought Mic for about $5 million, the Wall Street Journal reported. That is significantly lower than the $59.5 million Mic received in venture capital between March 2013 and June of this year.

Mic retained just one editorial staff member: co-founder and editor-at-large Jake Horowitz, the HuffPost reported.

In a statement, the Mic Union said a tearful CEO Chris Altchek announced the layoffs to the staff without mentioning the Bustle sale.

“While many of us have experienced layoffs and upheavals in the past at other media companies, this level of deception from Mic co-founders Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz represents a new low in corporate mendacity,” the union said in a statement on Twitter. “While we were mourning the loss of our newsroom, that shock and disillusionment quickly turned to anger as it soon became apparent that we were lied to, once again, by Mic management.”

In a vague memo to staff, Mic publisher Cory Haik said media was an “unsettled” industry.

“The macro forces at play are all going through their own states of unrest," Haik wrote in the memo, obtained by various news outlets. "If anyone tells you they have it figured out, a special plan to save us all, or that it's all due to a singular fault, know that is categorically false. Like the truth, it is indeed complicated.”

Haik, who resigned Thursday, did not mention union-busting as a one of those “macro force.”

In February, Mic’s editorial staff voted to join the NewsGuild of New York, which represents nearly 3,000 media professionals in and around New York City, according the NewsGuild. Mic had previously laid off 25 workers in August 2017.

In 2017, Gothamist/DNAinfo’s billionaire owner Joe Ricketts shutdown the two New York City websites and fired the staff after they had voted to unionize.

Other New York City-based news organization have also cut their staffs suddenly in recent months. In June 2017, HuffPo laid off dozens of reporters and editors. And in July, Tronc, which owns the Daily News, laid off about half of the News’ editorial staff.

Bustle and its new subsidiary Mic did not respond to requests for comment.