The founder of satirical sports and pop culture web outlet Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy, tweeted on Aug. 12 about efforts to unionize at The Ringer, an online sports outlet, with a link to a 2015 blog post, where he made fun of Gawker – a gossip blog – employees for voting to unionize.
This prompted criticism from many Twitter users, including journalist Rafi Letzter (who says in his Twitter bio that he is a “proud member” of a union) who offered assistance to any Barstool Sports employee who wants to unionize.
Portnoy then threatened to fire any Barstool Sports employee who responded to Letzter’s offer.
It is illegal under federal law for an employer to fire, discipline, demote or penalize employees who unionize, or who attempt to unionize.
Other online newsrooms, including Vice, Vox, HuffPost and Buzzfeed News, have formed unions in recent years.
Barstool Flyers, which is an affiliate of Barstool Sports, is well known on campus for posting comical, and sometimes embarrassing, videos of University of Dayton students. Barstool Flyers declined to comment on Portnoy’s tweets.
According to LinkedIn, Barstool Sports has 51 to 200 employees.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also criticized Portnoy, who then challenged her to a debate and called her “O’Crazio.” In an interview with Fox News, he said he hopes President Donald Trump begins calling the congresswoman that nickname.
If you’re a boss tweeting firing threats to employees trying to unionize, you are likely breaking the law &can be sued,in your words, “on the spot.”
ALL workers in the US have the protected freedom to organize for better conditions.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 13, 2019
In a video produced by Barstool that mocked Twitter users’ reactions to Portnoy’s tweets, an employee said, “[People] think this is some political play or some anti-union this or that…it’s really just narcissism trying to get a retweet from the president.”
Barstool Sports seems to be benefitting from the controversy.
“We had the biggest day we’ve ever had at Barstool Sports,” Portnoy told Fox News. “It’s lining our pockets.”
Image courtesy of the Blue Diamond Gallery