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Progressive Young Turks Founder Cenk Uygur Asked Staff Not to Unionize

The Young Turks radio show host Cenk Uygur leads a protest of government bailout money given to Goldman Sachs in Washington, D.C., June 9, 2010. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Cenk Uygur, one of the founders of the progressive news network The Young Turks, reportedly pleaded with his staff not to unionize during a meeting earlier this month, at times speaking passionately about his opposition to the move.

The all-staff meeting in Culver City, California on February 12 was originally planned to handle personnel matters but drifted into a discussion about the recently announced intention of staff members to form a union, The Huffington Post reported Monday.

Earlier in the day, a Twitter account purportedly representing the employees of The Young Turks announced their “decision to go union,” saying they are “proud” to “put into practice in our workplace the values that our work helps bring to the screen every day.”

“We stand in solidarity with the renaissance of labor activism we see now in workplaces of all kinds throughout the country,” the statement said.

At the meeting however, Uygur reportedly gave a spirited argument against the decision to unionize, according to staffers who attended, at one point throwing his papers on the ground and reprimanding an employee.

“The reality is we’re in a precarious position,” Uygur said. “We’re in a digital media landscape where almost no one makes money or is sustainable.”

“For a smaller digital media company, those are absolutely real considerations,” he continued. “It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a union. Everyone should know the full context.”

The popular progressive activist and political commentator has previously expressed strong support for unions, and has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has suggested punishing companies that refuse to recognize unions. Uygur is currently running for Congress in California in the 2020 special election to succeed former Representative Katie Hill, who resigned after reports that she carried on a sexual relationship with a congressional staffer.

On Friday, workers in the newly-formed TYT union tweeted that they are “dismayed to report” that leadership at the company “refused” their request to unionize.

The company’s acting chief operating officer, Jack Gerard, reassured employees that the company is not discouraging their campaign to form a union, but some staffers remained disappointed.

“We generally feel disappointed, but unshaken,” one staffer told The Huffington Post. “We feel it’s the right thing to do because of what TYT values.”

“This is a disappointing decision from an organization that presents itself as progressive,” said the parent organization of TYT Union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

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