news 5 days ago

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Takes On Barstool Sports Founder

Rolling Stone — Tessa Stuart

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the New York State Department of Labor on Tuesday singled out Dave Portnoy, founder of the media company Barstool Sports, for his threat to fire any employees who seek more information about unions.

Employees of Bill Simmons’s sports and culture outlet The Ringer on Monday announced they were unionizing. In response to the news, Barstool Sports’s Portnoy made a point of tweeting his own unfavorable views of unionization, and followed those thoughts up with a threat to fire any employees for seeking information about unionization “on the spot.”

He went on to issue further threats, including one responding to a lawyer who offered to help Barstool employees unionize (“Anybody who hires this lawyer will be  fired immediately and I will personally sue you for damages and back wages”) and another expressing his hope that Barstool employees do unionize, “Just so I can crush it and reassert my dominance.”

Veteran labor reporter Steven Greenhouse expressed surprise at Portnoy’s tweets, writing that it’s “very rare that one sees a business executive broadcast his illegal threats through a megaphone like this.” Such threats are rare because, as Greenhouse mentioned, they’re illegal under federal law.

After several years of saying and doing other objectionable things online (many of them helpfully catalogued by Deadspin), Portnoy has gotten used to blowing off Internet controversies, and he doesn’t appear too concerned about the possible ramifications of his tweets Tuesday — preferring to visualize himself “laying by the pool of [his] Nantucket house drinking Sancerre.”

The U.S. political climate being what it is, he might be right not to worry. Under President Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate, the NLRB has taken on a pro-business, anti-labor bent. The NLRB’s Republican majority has moved to make it easier for employers to kick out unions, and unions, reading the room, have have been less inclined to file unfair labor complaints with the board.

As one astute Twitter user pointed out, for Portnoy to face any real consequences for his tweets, Democrats will first have to retake the White House, then nominate more labor-friendly appointees to the NLRB, get those nominees confirmed by the Senate. 

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