MONEY Unions

Snarky Journalists Have Crude, Wrenching Public Debate About Unionization

Mart Klein—Getty Images/Ikon Images

So much for secret ballots.

Last month, some editorial members of Gawker Media, owner of various web properties including Deadspin, Jezebel, Gizmodo, and of course,, announced they planned to form a union.

Now, with an election scheduled for next week that will decide whether the company will unionize, Gawker writers have made their votes and opinions on the plan public in a post published Thursday. The discussion offers a rare look at how wrenching labor organization can be. Some pro-union writers have been so turned off by the process that they’ve decided to cast their ballot against unionization efforts.

“I am an avid proponent of unions, a leftist, and am perpetually distrustful of those in power—especially those that hold sway over my own employment,” writes Deadspin staff member Kevin Draper. “Yet on June 3rd, I am going to vote against Gawker Media editorial staffers unionizing. That is how f— up this entire process, from start to apparent finish, has been.”

Draper goes on to list a set of grievances that turned him against unionization, including a perceived lack of communication and transparency from union supporters and an election the writer feels was scheduled too soon.

Those issues are echoed by a number of other staffers, including Deadspin columnist Drew Magary, who added that the push toward organization had turned many staffers against one another (“This has created a GALACTIC amount of acrimony within Gawker”). Magary also voiced concerns about the everyday implications of unionization (“I f***ing hate meetings.”). Stef Schrader, an editor for Jalopnik, questioned whether a raise that would include union dues could force the company to cut into other benefits. “I don’t agree that we need to pay an outside entity to negotiate these things for us,” posted Schrader.

Most staff commenters appear to support unionization.

“I am voting yes on the union,” wrote Hamilton Nolan, Gawker’s longest-tenured writer and a major force behind the drive to organize. “This has been a truly ‘grass roots’ organizing process in the sense that we’ve been making it all up as we go along. There’s no doubt all the communication efforts have not been perfect. But I really, really hope that everyone will think about the big picture: a vote for this union is a vote for unity. It’s a vote to meld all of our interests together as one. And beyond the practical benefits for us, it’s a really important symbolic vote for our entire industry. It’s the first step of a movement that could end up helping a lot of people.”

If the pushback against organization by some writers comes as a surprise, it shouldn’t. Online media companies, despite being populated by many young city-dwellers who, as a demographic, tend to skew towards the left, have generally been reluctant to unionize. If Gawker does become a union shop, it would be the first major new media company to do so.

Why is the digital press so reluctant to band together? As the Washington Post explained in January, a combination of generational and economic forces tend to make unionization less palatable to online scribes. Younger workers are typically less familiar with unions and more apt to see themselves as personal brands instead of as part of a collective.

Another reason for web media’s union-phobia may just be that many journalists don’t feel they have it quite so hard. “They tend to think that because of their education and their talent, they don’t need [a union],” said Freddy Kunkle, the co-chair of The Washington Post’s Guild unit, in an interview with the Post. “What they’re doing is not coal mining: It’s not dangerous; it’s not dirty. What are they going to get out of it?”


Here’s One Statistic Explaining Why You Haven’t Gotten a Raise Lately

Krakozawr—Getty Images

A big chunk of workers are yearning for more hours, raise or no raise.

More than one-third of American workers would be willing to work longer hours without a raise, according to a new Federal Reserve report.

The report, which surveyed nearly 6,000 individuals about their financial well-being, found 36% of respondents would prefer to work more hours at their currently hourly wage. Another 58% of respondents said they are happy with the number of hours they currently work, while 5% wished they could work fewer hours.

While those who took the survey were not necessarily hourly workers, a Federal Reserve spokesperson said the question is a general proxy for whether employees would be willing to work longer for higher pay.

As Bloomberg notes, the Federal Reserve’s findings may help explain why inflation-adjusted wages have remained essentially flat, even as the economy has improved.

“When [Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen] says that the unemployment rate probably does not fully capture the extent of slack in the labor market, this is exactly what she’s talking about,” said Thomas Simons, a money-market economist at Jefferies LLC, in an email to Bloomberg. “Until workers perceive that there are more opportunities available that offer higher wages, they will be content to work for the same rate rather than take a risk for more.”

MONEY Minimum Wage

Unions Say It’s OK for Businesses to Sidestep the L.A. Minimum Wage

Labor leaders say that businesses with unionized workers should be exempt from the $15 minimum wage requirement.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor a new law that would increase the city’s minimum wage from $9 to $15 an hour by the year 2020. Yet the Los Angeles Times reports that labor officials, who until now have been strong supporters of the wage hike, are asking for a last-minute change that would allow unions the freedom to collectively bargain for wages that are lower than the minimum.

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both,” Rusty Hicks, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

Some business leaders suspect the sudden about face by the organization, which represents over 300 unions in the L.A. area, might be a tactic to increase membership and enhance the power of organized labor. Ruben Gonzalez, a senior vice president with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the wage legislation, told the Times he believes labor leaders are hoping to use this exception to pressure companies into unionizing, thereby allowing them to avoid minimum wage rules.

The city council’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled this Friday to review an ordinance enacting the new minimum wage law.


Facebook’s New Tool Will Help Keep Your Account Secure

traffic_analyzer—Getty Images

Introducing "Security Checkup"

Keeping your Facebook account safe just got a whole lot easier.

Starting today, the social networking giant will start introducing a new feature called Security Checkup. The new tool, which will roll out gradually, will guide users through a number of steps meant to improve account security.

Those steps include upgrading passwords, turning on login alerts, and the ability to log out of any active Facebook session—like one you accidentally left open on a public computer or your friend’s phone.

The entire process closely resembles the company’s current Privacy Checkup, which lumps current Facebook features into an easier-to-use interface. Facebook says the Security Checkup, which is supposed to be an improvement, is still in the testing phase. The company plans to make the feature available to more people based on user feedback.




MONEY Walmart

This Is Walmart’s Amazon Prime Killer

A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Location Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It's called "ShippingPass."

Walmart’s Amazon Prime competitor finally has name: ShippingPass.

TechCrunch reports the world’s largest retailer accidentally leaked that and other details when a test site for the service was accidentally made public yesterday, giving customers more insight into how Walmart plans to challenge Amazon’s online dominance.

As MONEY reported earlier, ShippingPass, previously codenamed “Tahoe,” will offer unlimited three-day delivery of eligible items purchased at and cost $50 per year—half the price of Amazon Prime.

An FAQ posted on the testing site reveals the launch will be restricted to a limited number of areas at launch. Products eligible for ShippingPass delivery will be marked on Walmart’s website with special logo, much like how Amazon identifies items eligible for Prime shipping. According to the FAQ, three-day delivery will only be guaranteed if the order is placed by noon local time.

While not all items will be eligible for three-day shipping, the leaked site revealed some items with slower delivery times—four to six days—will also ship at no cost, and ShippingPass appears to have no minimum order. Walmart currently offers free standard shipping to all customers on orders that exceed $50.

MONEY skymall

SkyMall Is Back from the Dead

World's Largest Airport Operator AENA Start Trading On Madrid Stock Exchange
David Ramos—Getty Images Need a neck pillow? There may be an app for that.

You can still get that outdoor dinosaur skeleton you always wanted.

Looking for a wireless padlock or an intelligent toilet seat? Well, you’re in luck.

SkyMall, the original purveyor of weird and eccentric products you don’t need but secretly want, has returned.

The retailer’s parent company, Xhibit Corp., filed for bankruptcy in January. At the time, Xhibit’s acting CEO Scott Wiley’s CEO blamed the publication’s troubles on the rise of electronic devices on planes, resulting in fewer passengers browsing SkyMall’s catalogue. However, Wiley expressed hope that SkyMall could find a buyer who would keep it operational.

It appears Wiley’s prayers have been answered. In April, SkyMall was purchased by C&A Marketing, a New Jersey-based company. The company, which also owns Ritz Camera and Polaroid, snagged SkyMall at action in April for just under $2 million.

The Atlantic reports how SkyMall’s new owners have been using Twitter to revamp and build up hype for the ironically iconic—or is it now iconically ironic?—brand. Clearly, the new SkyMall wants you to know it’s in on the joke about what its website calls its “occasionally unusual” products:


Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.04.47 PM

SkyMall’s new owners seem optimistic about the resurrection, telling NJBiz they plan to build mobile apps in addition to selling online. Classical Marcellus statue, anyone?


Ford Recalls Almost a Half-Million Cars for Power Steering Problem

Ford Reports $997 Million Third Quarter Profit
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Ford Taurus, one of the vehicles included in the company's recall

Power steering may switch to manual mode while driving

Ford on Wednesday issued a recall affecting a variety of their cars and SUVs, because of an “intermittent electrical connection” that can cause power steering to cut out and change the steering to manual mode. This can make the vehicle more difficult to steer and could result in the increased risk of a crash, according to Ford.

The recall covers some models of the 2011 through 2013 Ford Flex and Taurus, and the Lincoln MKS and MKT; the 2011 and 2012 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ; and certain 2011 Mercury Milans.

Dealers will either update power steering software or replace the steering gear.

Ford is also recalling nearly 20,000 2015 Mustangs with 2.3 liter engines because of an issue that can degrade their fuel tanks.

MONEY Time Warner Cable

Why Dodgers Fans Can Love the Time Warner Cable Merger

at Dodger Stadium on May 26, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Harry How—2015 Getty Images

More LA residents may finally get to watch their team play

The proposed merger between Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications gives Los Angeles Dodgers fans one reason to cheer.

It will now be easier to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Los Angeles.

Since the 2014 season, this has been surprisingly difficult. Time Warner Cable is the exclusive carrier of SportsNet LA, the Dodgers-owned channel broadcasting LA’s games. Other cable providers, like Comcast and Charter, have thus far balked at the price of the channel, leaving 70% of the greater Los Angeles area without regular access to televised Dodgers games.

Charter’s purchase of Time Warner Cable for $56 billion may provide some relief. The Los Angeles Times reports Charter will begin providing SportsNet LA to its 300,000 regional subscribers in the coming weeks. This won’t necessarily convince other cable providers to pick up the channel as well, but the Times speculates Charter’s move could put additional pressure on competitors to follow its lead.

But the picture may not be as rosy as it seems. Some cable analysts believe Charter will charge competing providers the same high fees as before once it takes over Time Warner Cable, and other local cable companies and satellite providers will continue to steer clear of the channel.

MONEY Travel

Airline Miles Are Now So Hard to Use That People Are Paying Consultants for Help

Delta Airlines Inc. Terminal Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

"Award booking consultants" promise to help confused travelers spend their airline rewards points as efficiently and easily as possible.

Booking airline rewards tickets has gotten so difficult that travelers are paying consultants as much as $200 a pop for help redeeming their miles.

Travel site Skift reports on growing number of “award booking consultants” who, for a fee, will help confused consumers get the most out of their rewards points. One site,, charges $50 to arrange a seating upgrade, $80 for an award ticket within North America, and $200 for snagging a points ticket that involves multiple cities or overseas stopovers.

“Booking free seats with frequent flyer miles is more difficult than ever before as airlines have further complicated the rules and fewer seats are available,” explains BookingGuru’s website. “Do not fret though because when the airlines tell you no or tries to charge you higher rates, Booking Guru is usually able to find an option at a lower cost!”

Skift notes that points consultants, unlike travel agents, are generally not accredited by any organization. But rogue as these specialized agents may be, the site adds that “$200 for that peace of mind and a confirmed, somewhat-free ticket, can arguably be worth the investment.”

Now if they could only do something about the rest of air travel’s miseries.

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