Left-Wing Young Turks Refuses to Recognize Employees' Union

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: Cenk Uygur, founder, CEO, and host of The Young Turks, speaks at The Young Turks' Watchdog Correspondents' dinner on April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for The Young Turks)
February 21, 2020

The Young Turks, a left-wing and pro-Bernie Sanders YouTube network, is refusing to recognize its employees' new labor union.

A week after TYT Union was formed to represent production and post-production workers at the popular liberal channel, the group announced that company leadership had refused voluntary recognition of the union. The refusal, which comes after Sanders proposed penalizing companies that refuse to recognize unions, is the latest instance of a left-leaning news outlet resisting unionization among its employees.

"This is a disappointing decision from an organization that presents itself as progressive," the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the parent organization of TYT Union, tweeted. "Join us in telling [The Young Turks] to respect their so-called principles and respect their workers!"

Boasting over 200 million views a month, TYT is one of the most popular media voices in the leftist wing of the Democratic Party. Both of its cohosts endorsed Sanders, who supports legislation that would automatically grant their employees the recognition TYT has withheld.

Under current labor laws, the National Labor Relations Board sets up a secret ballot election if 30 percent of a workplace's employees sign a union card. If a majority of employees vote to unionize, the NLRB will certify the union, but employers can choose whether to recognize it. Under Sanders's labor plan, "when a majority of workers in a bargaining unit sign valid authorization cards to join a union, they will have a union. If employers refuse to negotiate in good faith, we will impose strong penalties on those companies." According to a press release from IATSE, a majority of TYT's employees signed union cards.

In a statement last week announcing its formation, TYT Union invoked the network's left-wing, pro-union stance.

"We're proud to work behind the scenes at TYT to create online content that's bold, entertaining, and unapologetically progressive," the group wrote. "There is no other news and talk network quite like TYT, and the perspective our network brings to its political coverage is resolutely pro-justice and pro-worker."

Sanders endorsed TYT founder and cohost Cenk Uygur for Congress in December but retracted his endorsement a day later after critics noted Uygur's history of sexist and homophobic comments.

The decision from TYT—which did not respond to a request for comment—comes as other left-wing outlets have resisted employee attempts to form unions. In September, the Center for American Progress's outlet ThinkProgress was accused of union-busting after it fired its entire staff and "relaunched" with non-union employees. Months earlier, Vox Media publicly clashed with its writers' union, resulting in a site-wide walkout.