Media Matters: Unions Don’t Reduce Competitiveness . . . Until They Do

by James Sherk

Media Matters rejects the “myth” that “unions reduce business competiveness.” Unions “can increase individual firms’ productivity,” in fact, they say – apparently so long as that firm is not Media Matters.

The liberal outfit’s staff recently requested representation by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). But Media Matter’s management did not exactly welcome this prospective productivity boost with open arms. Instead of recognizing the union, Media Matters insisted on a secret-ballot election. An election that it intends to fight, having retained the services of Perkins Coie, a noted management-side law firm.

MMFAs employees released a statement expressing their disappointment:

The actions of Media Matters executives have placed employees in the impossible position of continuing to produce content espousing pro-labor values for an employer who is challenging our right to unionize. Not only is management subjecting Media Matters employees to arduous NLRB procedures, the actions of their attorneys indicate Media Matters executives object so tenaciously to our union that they appear willing to prevent employees from ever having the opportunity to vote on the matter.

Add Media Matters to the long list of liberals who want employers to do as they say, not as they do. Salon routinely criticizes companies that offer unpaid internships. It also offers unpaid internships at Salon. Union stalwart and former congressman David Bonior (D., Mich.) fought strenuously to raise the minimum wage. Now that he runs two restaurants where he only pays his (non-union) workers the tip wage of $2.36 an hour (they make more after tips).

Why would MMFA join in such blatant hypocrisy? Apparently because they believe unionizing would make them less effective. It would. Inflexible contracts, seniority-based promotions, and union cost structures impose — contra their “fact” sheet they use to make the case for unions elsewhere — significant competitive disadvantages. That’s why unionized firms tend to lose ground to non-union competitors.

This competitive disadvantage also explains why union membership has fallen below 7 percent in the private sector. Media Matters’s management is, reasonably, doing its part to maintain that trend.