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Topics: Labor Unions

Union says Media Matters will let workers vote on whether to organize

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,SEIU,Media Matters

Workers at Media Matters for America, the nonprofit liberal media watchdog, will definitely hold a vote on whether to form a union, according a statement posted online by Service Employees International Union Local 500. The announcement marks a big win for the union, which had earlier faced stiff opposition from the nonprofit's management to collective bargaining.

The announcement was posted on Local 500's website Thursday and attributed to the Media Matters Organizing Committee, a workers group. It did not state exactly when the election would be held other than to say it would be "soon."

"Management at Media Matters have promised to abide by their pro-union principles and have indicated they will be taking a position of absolute neutrality with respect to our decision to hold a union election. By committing to neutrality, management has strengthened the work of this organization," the statement read.

A spokesperson for MMFA did not respond to a request for comment.

The announcement marks a potential breakthrough for the union, which has been trying to organize the nonprofit's staff for more than two months. On April 9, MMFA rejected the union's claim it had majority support through a card check election. Local 500 twice filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board that month seeking to force management to hold a workplace election. In response, MMFA hired the law firm Perkins Coie, which specializes in representing management in representation cases.

Initially, both sides tried to downplay the dispute, saying that they were hopeful a compromise could be reached. By late April though talks had begun to deteriorate. The organizing committee issued a statement on April 28 through the union stating that they "feel betrayed" by management. The workers complained that MMFA had put them in "the impossible position of continuing to produce content espousing pro-labor values for an employer who is challenging our right to unionize."

Later that month, Local 500 launched a petition on Moveon.org calling on MMFA to "cut it out and 'walk the walk' when it comes to being pro-union."

It was an awkward situation for the nonprofit, which was launched with help from billionaire liberal donor George Soros and has often written in favor of workers' rights and collective bargaining. It has also criticized opponents of card check union organizing reforms. Ironically, by refusing Local 500's initial request, MMFA itself rejected a card check election for its own workers.

The Thursday statement suggested that MMFA agreed to the election in part in stop the bad publicity it was getting over the matter as well as to repair its ties with organized labor. The organizing committee's statement said: "Media Matters has always advocated for the power of the labor movement, and emphasized the critical role that unions play in building a strong middle class and supporting workplace democracy. The Organizing Committee and our supporters have always seen forming a union as a reflection of those principles."

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