Truthdig Employees Stop Work To Protest Labor Conditions

| Resist!

Above photo: By Mr. Fish.

Update: March 13 – Friday marked the third day of work stoppage for 16 members of Truthdig’s editorial team – including senior editors, columnists and copy desk staff – to protest unfair labor conditions and attempts by Publisher Zuade Kaufman to remove Editor-in-Chief and co-owner Robert Scheer. Though such group action is protected according to the National Labor Relations Board’s guidelines for concerted activity, Kaufman had immediately shut participants out of all functional aspects of their work, including access to their Truthdig email accounts and access to the site itself. She had also not responded to the group’s good-faith request for negotiation.

These actions on the publisher’s part are not in keeping with Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, which states it is an unfair labor practice for employers to “interfere with,” or take adverse action against, those engaged in protected concerted activity.

The publisher pulled a story posted on Truthdig Wednesday to explain to readers the reasons for the stoppage and to call for good-faith negotiations with management about work conditions and future steps toward unionizing. NLRB guidelines stem from Great Depression-era legislation created to ensure workers’ rights.

Update: March 12 – The full staff of copy editors sent this message to Zuade Kaufman, the publisher of Truthdig, today.

We, the undersigned Truthdig copy desk members, have voted to support our colleagues in their efforts to address concerns voiced in their letter of March 11. Accordingly, effective immediately, we will not work until the editorial staff member return to their positions and substantive negotiations on the issues begin. We are taking this action because we believe that resolution of these issues will allow Truthdig to continue the vital mission it has pursued under your leadership.

California – Senior editors and contributors at Truthdig, including Executive Editor Kasia Anderson, Managing Editor, Jacob Sugarman, Foreign Editor Natasha Hakimi Zapata and Book Editor Eunice Wong, along with columnists Chris Hedges, Lee Camp and Paul Street and the cartoonist Dwayne Booth, aka Mr. Fish, as well as blogger Ilana Novick, announced in a joint letter today they were beginning a work stoppage today to protest what they describe as unfair labor conditions and the effort by the publisher, Zuade Kaufman, to remove the site’s founding Editor-in-Chief and co-owner Robert Scheer. 

The letter, posted briefly on the site before being taken down and sent out to the 45,000 people on Truthdig’s email list, read: 

This letter is to announce that the undersigned members of Truthdig’s editorial team, Executive Editor Kasia Anderson, Managing Editor Jacob Sugarman, Foreign Editor Natasha Hakimi Zapata, Book Editor Eunice Wong and blogger Ilana Novick, along with columnists Chris Hedges, Lee Camp and Paul Street and cartoonist Mr. Fish will begin a work stoppage, effective immediately. 

In recent months, as has been publicly reported, Truthdig Publisher Zuade Kaufman and Editor in Chief Robert Scheer have been engaged in an ongoing dispute. That dispute is approaching its nadir as we are concerned Ms. Kaufman is attempting to take control of Truthdig, thus effectively removing Mr. Scheer from the website he co-owns and co-founded. This is unacceptable to us.

Since the website’s launch in 2005, Robert has helped guide Truthdig’s editorial voice, fearlessly exposing the corruption of Republican and Democratic administrations alike—an exception that proves the rule in progressive media. While liberals have largely turned their back on Julian Assange in recent years, Robert has remained one of his greatest champions. And as the mainstream media has resorted to the most cynical form of red-baiting against Sen. Bernie Sanders this election cycle, he has pushed back against it at every turn. 

Robert is the rare editor who urges readers to examine the legitimate alienation and rage of those pushed aside by globalization and de-industrialization, rather than allow the election of Donald Trump to be blamed on Vladimir Putin and Russia. Under his guidance, Truthdig has stood beside Occupy Wall Street, Wikileaks, the indigenous people of Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and countless other protest movements that have challenged entrenched power. We believe that he is irreplaceable.

But this work stoppage is ultimately about more than just Robert. For years, the Truthdig staff has worked under conditions that it feels fall well short of the website’s progressive values. Those include, but are not limited to, employment conditions that very possibly flout California’s labor laws. To ameliorate this situation, we are asking that management honor the following requests:

*Robert retain his position as Truthdig’s editor in chief 

*The editorial team retain its independence from publishing

*Full-time staffers (anyone working more than 32-hour weeks) receive no less than 10 paid vacation days per year, excluding national holidays. Those working between 20 and 30 hours per week will receive 7 paid vacation days, while those working between 10 and 20 hours per week will receive 5 paid vacation days, respectively

*Full-time staffers be compensated if they are ineligible for the company’s health insurance plan

*Full-time staffers receive four month’s paid parental leave

*Copy editors be compensated for full shifts 

*All staffers be paid double for federal holidays or enjoy a full day off at normal rates

*All staffers receive annual performance reviews and scheduled pay increases

*All staffers be issued new contracts to ensure compliance with labor laws

This list remains a work in progress, but management’s willingness to negotiate with the editorial team would demonstrate that all are acting in good faith, paving the way for future unionization. We maintain that a progressive publication cannot, and more essentially should not, exist without a union. 

To reiterate, we are not striking because we want to harm Truthdig or anyone at the publication. Quite the opposite: We are striking because we care deeply about the website and are committed to its long-term health. We hope to receive a response in a timely fashion and that this work stoppage will be short-lived.

Sincerely,

Chris Hedges

Kasia Anderson

Jacob Sugarman 

Natasha Hakimi Zapata

Eunice Wong

Ilana Novick

Mr. Fish

Paul Street

Lee Camp           

 

The editors and contributors also said they objected to new contracts being sent by the publisher to contract and other workers that despite Robert’s role as editorial director, stated that those working for the site would be reporting to Kaufman.  The contracts, none of which were evidently seen or approved by Scheer, also ask workers to surrender most of their labor and civil rights in apparent violation of the state of California’s labor laws.

The passage in the contract under the clause Waiver and Release reads:

In exchange for the signing bonus and other consideration provided for in this Agreement, you agree to waive any and all claims against the Company, its parent, subsidiary and affiliated corporations, and their respective successors, assignees, representatives, agents, shareholders, officers, directors, executives and employees, both  current and former (collectively, the “Releasees”), and to release and discharge the   Releases at any time prior to and including the date you sign this Agreement, whether known or unknown to you, including but not limited to any claims arising under any federal, state or local law, rule or ordinance, tort, employment contract (express or implied), independent contractor agreement or classification, public policy, or any other  obligation, including without limitation, any claims arising under the Age Discrimination  in Employment Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1985, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the California Age Discrimination Act, the California Constitution, the California Labor Code, the California Wage Orders, the Private Attorneys General Act, the Califonria Business and Professions Code, the Laws established by the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the California Family Rights Act, and any other federal, state or local labor, employee relations, wage/hour, and/or fair employment practices statute, rule or ordinance, as well as all claims for attorneys’ fees.  This waiver and release does not include (i) claims that may arise after you execute this Agreement, (ii) claims that cannot be waived as a matter of law or public policy, (iii) claims to vested pension benefits, and/or (iv) the right to seek enforcement of this Agreement.

You hereby expressly waive and relinquish all rights and benefits afforded to you by  Section 1542 of the Civil Code of California and do so understanding and acknowledging the significance and consequence of such specific waiver of Section 1542.  Section 1542  of the Civil Code of California states as follows:

A GENERAL RELEASE DOES NOT EXTEND TO CLAIMS WHICH THE CREDITOR DOES NOT KNOW OR SUSPECT TO EXIST IN HIS OR HER FAVOR AT THE TIME OF EXECUTING THE RELEASE, WHICH IF KNOWN BY HIM OR HER MUST HAVE MATERIALLY AFFECTED HIR OR HER SETTLEMENT WITH THE DEBTOR.

Thus, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 1542, and for the purpose of implementing a full and complete release as set forth herein, you expressly acknowledge that this Agreement is also intended to include in its effect, without limitation, all claims that you do not know or suspect to exist at the time of your execution of this Agreement, and that this Agreement contemplates the extinguishment of any such claim or claims.

  • YouOldFool

    This seems to me to be as good a place as any to put words into practice. Burn it down. As much as I will miss the convenience of finding the truth tellers on Truthdig’s site, their work can continue through other channels.

  • jimtaggert

    how do we support them? by avoiding truthdig?

  • luckywon1986

    Seems to me that Scheer might be best off suing Kaufman for the rights to the name Truthdig, thereby keeping it inactive while possession is adjudicated. In the meanwhile, he could then start another online source, bringing over all the people from Truthdig, while extending all the items and provisions hey are demanding. If Scheer has the financial wherewithal or backing to do that, it is Kaufman that would be left to wonder how it all turned so bad on her – and Scheer could then continue all the good he does, while the lawyers fight it out over the empty shell that Kaufmen wild be left holding.

  • If Kaufman had an ounce of decency in her, she’d sell off whatever interest she may claim in Truthdig to Scheer for one penny, then withdraw in shame from participation in any and all journalistic projects. That “agreement” she and her cronies tried to foist on Truthdig’s staff is nothing but pure evil.

  • For awhile at the very least that would seem to be in order. Until the matter is resolved to the satisfaction of the journalists and actual makers of Truthdig who signed onto this letter and the work stoppage, as well as Truthdig’s predominantly liberal/progressive readership.

    You could also write to Truthdig directly via its website contact page.

    Anyhow what’s left of Truthdig’s attractions, with Scheer suppressed and these journalists/artists withdrawn in protest? Robert Reich’s idle ditherings? Gimme a break.

  • I’ve sent Truthdig a letter of righteous indignation via their
    website’s contact form. I
    recommend that anyone and everyone interested in good, skeptical,
    ethical journalism, in furthering a genuine liberal/progressive social
    and political agenda, and in pushing back at the creeping fascism of the
    Right from within even indie media outlets, do likewise.

  • emernel

    This sounds to me like the death of alternate media. As well who would want to have anything to do with an organization that wants you to give up your civil rights. I dumped Truthdig ages ago, except for Chris Hedges.

  • rgaura

    This sucks, because I just contributed to them, because of my great respect for Mr. Scheer and his work. I appreciate also his work as a mentor to young reporters coming up. He has been a consistent voice of reason, a compassionate promoter of justice, and a patient educator to the public on complex issues pertaining to the public good.
    We are watching a big move to consolidate control and concentrate such powers as be into fewer and less rational hands. Who can bother to get through these `screw you and your rights´ clauses mangling the english language. Its time to stand up for our inherent rights, free speech being primary to the exercise of the rest.
    Too bad they can’t be a co-op!
    Solidarity! We should back them up with a go fund me strike fund if it goes on for long.

  • mmckinley

    Demand a refund! And tell them why.

  • mmckinley

    Yes luckywon1986! All the employees should join with Scheer and purchaseTruthdig at a hefty (court-ordered) discount as a worker-owned, democratically-run cooperative, and show the journalistic world the best path toward restoring news journalism back to its rightful place in our democracy. This is a great opportunity to put the New Economy into action where it counts. The New Economy Is Now! I’d be willing to invest my pennies. Anybody else?

  • JohnJoslin

    I support this strike and immediately will join EVERYONE in refusing to read the work of SCAB writers who agree to serve as strikebreakers by cooperating w/ Truthdig’s current management.

    – John Joslin ( IBEW Local # 58- Detroit, Michigan )

  • Nylene13

    Or just start a new one. TruthFight.

  • Nylene13

    Not the death, the BEGINNING.

    These writers need to form a new Truthdig, a better one.

  • luckywon1986

    The idea is solid. However, the issue could be tied up in the courts for years. That’s why I suggested everyone move to a new site, with Scheer at the lead. It would take little time to begin acting as Truthdig has. Furthermore, by the time the courts decide on who has the right to the name Truthdig, it likely would be a moot point.

    As to the form, cooperative or otherwise, would Scheer (or the employees) want that? Could they afford that? Would they be purchasing anything more than a name? Would the court mandate such a sale; is it legal? Or would the courts merely fine Kaufman heavily? Those and many other questions would need to be answered.
    No matter the answer to any or all of these questions, it will be interesting to see the outcome, given that we are in an era where journalists (think Assange) are imprisoned for revealing the truth and where ‘freedom of the press’ no longer means freedom from government interference, but freedom to work in partnership with the government in order to deceive.

  • doldrum pant

    They’re posting stories authored by “truthdig staff.” I asked if the writers were back in the comments and was censored and shut out.

  • JohnJoslin

    SCABS coming in to work via the back entrance under cover of anonymity…

    They are crossing a ‘Picket-Line’, nonetheless.

    -J.Joslin ( IBEW Local # 58, Detroit)

  • Nylene13

    I just did the same thing.

  • jho blho

    I really like that name. It fits.

  • doldrum pant

    Found your comment. Wonder how long they’ll let it stay. My comments are “pending.”

  • jho blho

    I used their contact form too, for what that’s worth. At least that canine can see how many of us appreciate Bob Scheer and Hedges, Lee Camp, etc. I don’t know who Kaufman is, apparently she has never written anything that has registered with me.

  • jho blho

    If you did it on a credit card, do a stop payment.

  • Nylene13

    How do you know who these scabs are?

  • Nylene13

    Until they find it. Shameful.

  • JohnJoslin

    We can simply infer the fact of their existence .

    If ( as earlier post stated ) Truthdig is posting stories authored by “Truthdig staff”, we know they are not referring to the striking writers.
    Since they omit the normal ‘byline’ to provide anonymity , we know they mean SCABS … but prefer to avoid such clear language.

    Other than that, the SCABS are presently known mostly to themselves, not the general public.

  • doldrum pant

    Thanks to commenters or I’d have never known about the truthdig writer’s strike.

  • Alice X

    The way to show solidarity with the work stoppage is boycott. I may relocate hereabouts? As myself rather than Petrushka.

  • doldrum pant

    their one news story on cv quarantine went from “managing editor” to a few writers’ names to “truthdig.” A commenter noticed it was an article that also appeared on propublica.

  • Yep. Still pisses me off.

  • doldrum pant

    hope you get your money back

  • SupportWritersWalkouts

    Never piss off Eddie Bernays.

  • SupportWritersWalkouts

    Chris Hedges, Lee Camp and others are vegetarian too. Good hearts.

  • Nylene13

    Thank you. I wish they would all set up an online Striking Writers Page .

  • GMOs Live Long & Prosper

    I guess since you failed to organize bernie supports you can try this instead.

  • SupportWritersWalkouts

    Mr. Fish has an update on clowncrack dee oh tee cee oh em. The filter won’t let me add the link. They have been shut out of their emails.

  • Nylene13

    Thank you for this info.!
    Checking it out right now-I got in. THANK YOU!

  • gustave courbet

    I thanked you for posting info on the ongoing writers strike on Truthdig, and it was removed FYI. So, in case you didn’t see it, thanks again.

  • SupportWritersWalkouts

    You’ve done your part to inform readers about the censored article and posts. Now they can’t claim ignorance, only apathy.

  • SupportWritersWalkouts

    I noticed people leaving after they’re made aware of the situation. Do you think it’s right for them to censor what’s going on and still leave the writers up on the site when asking for donations?

  • SupportWritersWalkouts

    Looks like the letters and awareness-raising has at last gotten a response, albeit an unfortunate one.

  • John Kauai

    An interesting story on TD this morning. It hints that Scheer made unwanted advances. But who knows. In the era of #MeToo, this is the kind of innuendo one puts out if they want to mislead the public. After all, it only “hints” at Scheer being inappropriate.

  • SupportWritersWalkouts

    Someone commented, in part, this on another website last year apparently. I had no idea.

    Readers will have to search for it as I am unable to post links without being filtered.

    “..Their disputes, staff members say, revolve around Kaufman’s desire to
    make the site more mainstream and commercially viable by catering to the
    Democratic Party establishment and adopting the dominant narratives
    about supposed Russian interference in the 2106 presidential election,
    as well as other stances embraced by mainstream outlets such as MSNBC.
    The dispute between Scheer and Kaufman came to a head last week when
    Kaufman attempted to fire Scheer…”

    If that’s accurate, it seems like the ship may steer in a different direction.

  • SupportWritersWalkouts

    Mr. Fish has another update on his site with a brutal response- art of a pinnocchio snake wrapped around the TD.

  • doldrum pant

    well everyone’s aware now. I’m out of here. take care. the economics of the panicdemic will kill me before the bug ever does. couldn’t have hit at a worse time. bye.

  • gustave courbet

    Not remotely.

  • jimtaggert

    I just left some choice comments for Ms Kaufman after her letter. #truthdigsux thanks!

  • jimtaggert

    solidarity

  • kevinzeese

    Popular Resistance just added the podcast of Truthdig editor, Robert Scheer. The first installment of Scheer Intelligence is here https://popularresistance.org/scheer-intelligence-the-afghanistan-war-turned-americans-into-good-germans/

  • Griffon

    Jesus H. WaffleIron….

    I go away for a few days; (prepare the garden, build my decontamination shower, etc.), and Truthdig turns into alternet? WTF?

    Okay, let’s see if I’m understanding this; some millionaire-ess is trying to shaft Truthdig employees? Enough to piss-off Chris Hedges and Lee Camp? And kaufman, after immediately pulling the striking employees’ statement that exposed the absolute bullsh!t civil-rights-mugging, labor-rights-denying “contract” that she apparently tried to impose (with the full intention of unilaterally wresting control and turning the blog into another full DNC bootlick rag), is clumsily posting Streisand Effect damage control to keep up the tatters of appearance while she tries to subvert everything that “progressive” Truthdig purported to stand for?

    This is truly surreal!

    And here I thought alternet was the more hypocritical modern example of peddling lip-service to ‘values’ they themselves had no intention of upholding. alternet had its “crying room.” Truthdig has its “Waiver wards”

    Truthdig’s “contracts” and kaufman’s apparent blazing dishonesty; particularly in the age of the internet, where ulterior motives and behaviors will, 99 times out of 100, be exposed immediately, will only sink the site if kaufman gains control.

    Nobody wants to support or patronize yet another specious, faux “progressif” site that runs its business like the totalitarian DNC/democrats.

    Another one bites the dust…..?

  • Yup! you missed it. The comments are off the site too. We all expressd out displeasure with the Publisher’s “Open Letter” – then the site shut down. lol.

  • It was and remains bizarre how this whole mess has stumbled, fallen down and can’t get up.

    It’s like the season opener of Real Housewives of Independent Media

  • Carl Neuman

    Another one bites the dust, indeed. Chris Hedges: As progressive sites diminish, and as it seems nearly certain I will not be publishing again on Truthdig, it is imperative that we support the few independent sites such as Popular Resistance that remain free from oligarchic and corporate control. — Chris

    Fuck little rich girl Kaufman, and the DNC pony she rode out on.

  • Russ

    So Kaufman has shutdown TruthDig completely now, leaving the history, EXCEPT for the reams of excellent comments left by the community over the last 15 years!

    The psycho has torn down one of the best / only real news sites, and for what?
    This is why allowing individual psychopaths to control such organizations is such a bad idea.
    A collective should be formed to acquire and restore TruthDig to its former glory.

  • Mensch59

    A collective should be formed to acquire and restore TruthDig to its former glory.

    Better to start again from scratch with the former employees organizing a workers’ cooperative than put another nickel into the coffers of Z. Kaufman. Just my 2¢ worth.

  • JohnDoe00

    The Digger is a right-wing rag run by psychopaths. Enter at your peril.

  • didactic1

    She can shut it down. They then have no federal remedy. Scheer also has no long term contract.
    .

  • didactic1

    Scheer is ready to retire.