Elk Claims Scalps in Politico Shake-Up

Former Politico staffer says union drive led to founding editor’s downfall

Mike Elk / gofundme.com posting

Mike Elk / gofundme.com posting

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Labor activist and former Politico reporter Mike Elk said the shake-up that led to the resignation of founding editor Jim VandeHei was a victory for the labor movement.

“We kicked their ass. We kicked their ass hardcore. Look Jim, got pushed out, this is a victory for the union,” Elk said in an email to the Washington Free Beacon. “WE fucking kicked his ass. Now, I am going after Bob Corker.”

Elk had been a vocal proponent of unionizing the workforce at the Beltway publication, which is located many floors beneath the Washington Free Beacon in Arlington, Va., before his ouster in August. VandeHei followed in Elk’s footsteps on Thursday, announcing that he would step down after the November election. He penned an optimistic memo to staff announcing his decision.

“After the election, it will be on to the next battle. To all those who followed us here, thank you with all my heart. You are making me a better, more fulfilled person. You changed my life,” VandeHei said in the memo.

Elk said he believes that the departure is related to the unionization push.

“I told Jim he needed the union to save POLITICO but nobody listened to me. My situation played a big role. Many of us heard that Jim was opposed to firing me, but the decision came directly from the top from little Bobby [Allbritton]. You know what they say those that live by the sword die by the sword and management lost credibility with its workforce after firing me,” Elk said.

Vandehei and Politico did not return requests for comment.

Publisher Robert Allbritton praised VandeHei as well as outgoing Politico staple Mike Allen in a memo circulated to the publication’s 500-person staff. The memo suggested that VandeHei stepped down of his own accord rather than over disputes about budget matters, as some reported.

These transitions make perfect sense for the publication, coming a decade (almost to the day) after I recruited them to join this cause. Jim in particular began signaling to me some years ago that he hoped the next stop in his career would be to once again start a new venture,” Allbritton said.

Elk said that he reached out to VandeHei with ideas about how to revitalize the workplace and ensure labor harmony by allowing workers to unionize.

“As the leader of the union organizing committee, I want to request an audience to speak with you about working conditions as well as the upcoming union election at POLITICO,” Elk said in a June memo to Vandehei. “A culture of fear currently exists among many employees that prevents the union drive from moving forward. Many employees fear that they will have difficulties getting stories published or be passed over for assignments if they speak about forming a union.”

The message fell on deaf ears, according to Elk.

“Jim never stood up and said anything publicly about it. He never went into public and where like he we systematically violated this guys rights and tried to blacklist him from this profession,” he said.

Elk left Politico in August and later reached a settlement from the publication after he complained that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. He is a 2015 Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.

*FULL DISCLOSURE: Elk once approached this reporter about unionizing the Free Beacon. The idea has yet to catch on.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He is a 2008 Cornell University graduate and lives in Alexandria, Va with his wife Teresa and daughter Olivia. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.

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