That’s the board of the union representing Chicago Tribune workers that gave a whole new meaning to “solidarity.”
Turning from the traditional role of rattling management’s cage, the Chicago Tribune Guild’s leadership turned on a fellow employee, the Tribune’s lead columnist John Kass. In a widely circulated letter, the executive board accused Kass of writing a column that was racist and anti-Semitic. The charge, of course, was not just inaccurate, but wildly so. Also malevolent and a flat-out lie.
As a former member and officer of the Chicago Newspaper Guild, at the time representing workers at the Sun-Times and Daily News, I find the board’s action to be condemnable. Way outside of the bounds of organized labor. Never in all those years did the Chicago Newspaper Guild take any official action against a fellow employe because his or her views were different than ours. Even if we thought the views damaged the paper’s readership numbers. Our job was straightforward: work in our members’ interests.
Sure, Kass has exercised his right not to join the Tribune Guild, so I suppose the executive committee (let’s call them The Nine) is not obliged to get him a raise, improve his working conditions, secure his job and so forth. But having reviewed the Guild’s mission statement, I find nothing in there about sitting in judgment of a columnist’s views.
The Nine argued that Kass’ views undermine the Guild’s efforts to build readership, but the action has angered so many readers that it seems to have backfired. (See, for example, the many supportive comments on his Facebook page.)
Further, the action violates its own stated mission of “…protecting Chicago Tribune journalism. We are committed to establishing a productive relationship with the company and, together, creating the conditions under which we can continue to produce excellent journalism for our readers.” Maybe The Nine could explain how what they did establishes a productive relationship with the company.
Sure, solidarity means mutual support of members of a certain group–namely the Tribune Guild–so it doesn’t strictly apply to non-member Kass. (That raises suspicions that the action is retaliation, but I have no evidence of that.) But using the Guild’s institutional powers to target a co-worker is reprehensible. It is a gross misuse of the Guild’s power and grounds for new leadership.
It’s not my job to tell the Guild membership what to do. But I could not hide my amusement if The Nine became a victim of the same cancel culture that spurred them to tar Kass. But that assumes that individual Guild members are motivated to remove them for the unjustified attack on a colleague because of his views.