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Policy: Labor

Media Matters refused SEIU's effort to organize its staff

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Media,Liberalism,SEIU,Nonprofits

Despite a long history of supporting unions and workplace organizing, liberal nonprofit group Media Matters for America refused labor organizers when they submitted a petition to represent MMFA's own workers.

According to a filing with the National Labor Relations Board, the watchdog group had "no reply" when Service Employees International Union Local 500 submitted its request for recognition on April 9.

In effect, the union asked MMFA to submit to a "Card Check" election to represent its employees and skip a workplace secret ballot election. David Brock, the nonprofit's founder and chief executive officer, apparently refused.

Local 500 then went to the NLRB to request a workplace election, stating in a sworn declaration that "a substantial number of employees wish to be represented" by the union. The declaration was filed April 10.

The Washington Examiner reported on the situation last week, but at the time, the only information available from the NLRB was that Local 500 had made a filing regarding MMFA. The actual document was obtained by the conservative Center for Union Facts through the Freedom of Information Act and posted online Tuesday. A spokesman for the NLRB confirmed its authenticity.

The document indicates that MMFA was not cooperating with the Local 500's effort to represent its workers. Jess Levin, spokesperson for MMFA, said in an email that the nonprofit did respond to Local 500's request to represent its workers but did not elaborate on what it said in response.

"We are a non-profit media watchdog. We have an extremely dedicated and talented workforce here at Media Matters and are proud of the team and organization. We respect the rights of our employees and will work through this process," Levin said. At press time, Levin had not responded to follow-up inquiries.

The nonprofit media watchdog group has hired the law firm Perkins Coie, which specializes in representing management in labor disputes, to represent it before the board.

"I suspect they were caught off-guard," said Christopher Honey, communications director for Local 500. Asked if he was disappointed that MMFA did not accept their initial request, Honey said it was still "early in the process. ... I think they are going to ultimately find that this is a good thing for everyone."

MMFA hasn't usually been so circumspect on the subject. In a January 2010 post, it attacked George Will for claiming that Card Check legislation would take away workers' rights to a secret ballot in workplace elections. It pointed out that technically it would be the employer, not the workers, whose authority would have been limited: "In fact, currently it is employers, not workers, who have the right to demand a secret ballot; the Employee Free Choice Act would strip employers of that right; employees would [still] be able to utilize the 'secret ballot' election process."

What MMFA's article didn't say was that Brock decided that employers should have the right to refuse unions when it comes to card check elections.

MMFA has claimed it was a fact that "unions increase productivity [and] do not reduce business competitiveness."

This story was published at 2:50 p.m. and was updated at 4:07 p.m.

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