Following the drama surrounding the resignation of a New York Times veteran science reporter, employees inside the company have said the union designed to protect them is now more concerned with being “woke” than protecting employees.
Several Times employees spoke to the Washington Free Beacon, detailing the problems within the New York Times Guild, the employee union.
“The people I’m supposed to go to if I have a problem with management are the same ones who might try to get me fired,” one union member told the outlet. “The union is the last place I would go for support.”
That sentiment is a far cry different than a statement put out by the union last June, in which it declared: “Journalists are not expendable. Employers are attempting to undermine our collective strength and security.” The Guild went on to say that it was “fighting to preserve our right to due process and to ensure fairness and equity — particularly for our BIPOC colleagues — by maintaining this essential safeguard against unjust [discipline.]” (Side note: while the Times union demands a right to due process, the paper has actively attacked attempts to provide those same rights to college students.)
While the union said last year that it would protect its members, it seems to have changed its tune after allegations of racism were lodged against Donald McNeil, a four-decade veteran of the news paper who resigned earlier this month.
Employees who spoke to the Free Beacon described how Times union members signed a letter to management “demanding a more thorough investigation of his conduct after an initial probe led to a wrist slap.,” the Free Beacon reported. McNeil had been disciplined for his alleged behavior on a “Times Journeys” expedition to Peru to study health care in the region. The trips have been around since 2012, but as Times media columnist Ben Smith explained on Sunday, they became complicated to manage — particularly in the summer of 2019, after The Times began hosting teenagers.”
It was those teenagers – none of whom were black – that made the allegations against McNeil, which ranged from vague claims that the reporter “made racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip” to the main allegation that McNeil repeated the “n-word” when asking for clarification from a student about whether a classmate should have been disciplined for using the word in a video when they were 12. McNeil said he asked the student what context the other student used the slur, repeating it while doing so.
The Times union didn’t directly call for McNeil’s firing, but prominent members did, according to those who spoke to the Free Beacon. The members who spoke to the outlet said reporter Davey Alba and cultural critic Amanda Hess led the charge to fire McNeil even after he had already been disciplined.
The union has a legal obligation to *represent* people in discipline and to follow due process,” Alba argued on Twitter. “We are not defense attorneys. If someone harassed someone or acted in a matter deemed unacceptable, it can still count as cause.”
Hess, through Times spokesman Jordan Cohen, said it was “completely false” to suggest she was part of the uproar over McNeil.
As the Free Beacon reported, the Guild did issue a statement against McNeil.
“There’s never a moment when harmful racist rhetoric is acceptable,” it said. “While we continue to advocate for our members, we do so recognizing that we are one community that must work together to eradicate and fight injustice.”
The statement suggested the union wouldn’t back McNeil if he were fired.
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