January 3, 2020

Vox Media (Owner Of SB Nation) Fires 200 Writers Rather Than Pay Them Fairly

Daniel R. Epstein wrote an informative article for Beyond The Box Score last month, headlined "Don't Let MLB Insult You".

MLB's revenues were almost $11 billion in 2019, yet its teams (and/or its stadiums) are subsidized to varying degrees by taxpayer dollars. "You probably receive no direct benefit from this tax giveaway," Epstein points out. "All it buys you is the opportunity to go spend even more money on baseball close to home."
The Cubs are owned by the Ricketts — America's 66th wealthiest family with a 2015 net worth of $4.5 billion ... [and] they want you to believe they can't afford [Eric] Sogard [who signed a 2020 contract with another team for $4.5 million]. ... Fenway Sports Group is the third largest sports conglomerate in the world, whose initial investment of $700 million has increased in value by 843 percent, yet Mookie Betts might get dealt away this winter! ...

MLB insults us everywhere we look. Their desire to cut 42 minor league teams — and then threaten to walk away from MiLB altogether — is insulting. ... Every taxpayer-funded stadium deal is insulting. ...

[MLB's] sandbox is the size of a beach, yet they tell you they're running out of sand.
Epstein closes with this:
This will be my last article for Beyond the Box Score. This site is a subsidiary of SB Nation, owned by Vox Media, which was valued at $1 billion in 2015. Vox recently made the decision to fire several underpaid writers en masse. This is in response to a well-intended, poorly-written California law limiting contractors to 35 articles per year before they must be hired as staff. Rather than comply with the law by paying hard-working writers decently, they decided to annihilate dozens of jobs.

I am not directly impacted by this decision. I don't live in California or write for a California-based site, but I can no longer produce content for Vox's benefit in good conscience. Writing twice per week and contributing some editorial work, I make $105 per month. That's a rate of about $4/hour. I love writing analytically about baseball, and as this isn't my main career or source of income, I don't do it for the money. However, I can no longer reconcile writing for a billion dollar corporation who would rather eliminate valuable contributors than pay them fairly. ...

I'm not sure exactly what's next for me, but I'll be able to look my children in the eye knowing that I'm doing what I believe is right.
On December 16, 2019, The New York Times reported that Vox Media would be firing 200 freelance SB Nation writers.

John Ness, executive director at SB Nation, says the law, which went into effect on January 1, "makes it impossible for us to continue with our current California team site structure because it restricts contractors from producing more than 35 written content 'submissions' per year." (Vox is taking advantage of legislation meant to improve working conditions at companies that rely on contractors rather than employees.)

Ness is not being honest, and he knows it. No one is restricted from producing more than 35 submissions per year. But, according to the new law, if they do, they have to be made an employee. So what Ness is really saying is: "The new law doesn't allow us to continue exploiting our writers as much as we would like, so we will simply get rid of them, save money, and have a shittier product." (This decision comes on the heels of G/O Media's destruction of Deadspin in late October.)

If those 200 writers became "employees", Vox would then be required to pay them more fairly, provide benefits, etc. ... But how can a media conglomerate worth more than one billion dollars survive if it is forced to pay people more than $4.00 per hour?

One of the comments under Epstein's article says:
Safeway did that in Chicago to the Dominick's Grocery chain...
rather than negotiate in good faith with the union. They just pulled out of the Chicago market. That is why we must reverse deregulation. Industries only police themselves for their own ends. Good Luck, Mr. Epstein. What a sad time we live in.


allan said...

Yahoo, on the Fenway Sports Group's massive profits (FSG is now worth $6.6 billion):
"That’s pretty great for them. It also makes one wonder why it’s, apparently, so important for the Red Sox to get beneath baseball’s Competitive Balance Tax threshold, as they’ve said they need to do, which could possibly lead them to trade Mookie Betts. Their CBT tax penalty for this past year was reported yesterday to be $13.4 million. That’s rounding error for FSG."

GK said...

One really egregious example was Walmart shutting down a profitable store in Quebec in the 2000's (?), after the employees voted to unionize. Not knowing much of Marvin Miller's contributions. Now I understand how pathetic the owners have been towards him, and by extension, how they see labor.

Jere said...

"which could possibly lead them to trade Mookie Betts"

Say that, people click, don't say it, people don't click. I also could possibly replace Trump as president.

betterthanthealternative said...

Late Stage Imperialism...it's all falling apart, and accelerated concentration of wealth at the top is one of the signs.

laura k said...

I was actually going to say the same thing as GK! The Quebec Walmart.

Great post, Allan. Thank you.

Although I agree with betterthanthealternative's observation that it's all falling apart, this dynamic is as old as capitalism itself. As a labour activist, I've seen countless examples, and my labour activist father and labour activist grandfather did in their respective days. What other reason could there be for all our clothes, shoes, and household goods being manufactured on the other side of the planet?