Unions are Very Important, Unless You Work for Progressive Intellectuals

John MacArthur, the moneybags behind Harper's magazine, acts like a big bad moneybags and punishes his intellectual workers (or management!) for union formation. A smattering of details from a New York magazine account. MacArthur is

trying to lay off Harper’s' literary editor, Ben Metcalf, who’s worked at the magazine since the mid-nineties and who played a key role in the union drive — a move the union says is pure retaliation.....

Metcalf and other staffers began discussing the idea of forming a union in the months after [former editor Roger] Hodge was fired. Metcalf called Maida Rosenstein, president of UAW Local 2110, and she met with Metcalf and several Harper’s staffers at a coffee shop....

On July 29, 2010, Metcalf, Rosenstein, and about a dozen Harper’s employees gathered outside MacArthur’s office. They opened the door, and Rosenstein informed MacArthur that the staff was forming a union....

In a follow-up phone call, MacArthur told Rosenstein that he viewed the union as a “power play” by the staff. “He was very hostile,” Rosenstein told me. “He said people had lied and misled him me about the reason they wanted to form a union, and that the staff was angry about Roger Hodge being fired...

Unions, a power play by workers? The very idea! (One imagines MacArthur harrumphing from behind a phalanx of Pinkertons.)

MacArthur contested the entire staff's right to unionize, arguing that editors and assistant editors who make up about half of the editorial team were management and thus did not qualify. Staffers couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony: The staunch defender of unions, whoin a 2009 Harper's piece called the UAW “the country’s best and traditionally most honest mass labor organization,” was now on the other side of the table as the "worst kind of factory owner," as one staffer put it to me.

The National Labor Relations Board--supported, remember, by "that man Roosevelt" in the old days--decided that MacArthur was wrong, the union right. Harper's could feel the surge of that people power that there be in a union. MacArthur wrote a letter to the staff asking them to not vote for union representation, leading to my favorite line from MacA: “I confess that I remain confused about the goal of the people seeking union representation...Certainly, the union will not be able to solve the financial problems of the magazine or get us more subscribers, newsstand buyers or advertisers. It will, of course, be able to collect initiation fees and dues from you.”

Lem Boulware couldn't have said it any better. But as of October 14, Harper's staff are members of UAW Local 2110.

People whose intellectual lives began this century might know this venerable publication Harper's, available to most only on "paper," as but a dim memory. But trust me, as someone who has felt its intensely frightening weight in my very hands this very month, it's out there. And someday, you might find that out for yourself. (The New York article effectively mocks MacArthur's fear and hatred of using the Web as a way to communicate with readers, make money, or allow the world to know the mag still exists.)

I took on Harper's peculiar anti-market snobbery in the previous century.

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  • ||

    oh so now union GOOD since they went against a progressive. GOOD to know!

  • Destrudo||

    OhioOrrin is a spoof, right?

  • Almanian||

    Mostly just an idiot

  • Prohibition Kills||

    Your ignorance is palpable, and I say that earnestly, not just because I disagree with your statism.

  • ||

    How you got that from that story is confounding. Clearly, the point of the story is that MacArthur was a big union supporter until he had to deal with the prospect of running his business under a unionized staff.

  • Juice||

    There's nothing wrong with a union at all (per se).

  • sevo||

    "oh so now union GOOD since they went against a progressive. GOOD to know!"
    I'm sure there's some resources somewhere near your cave where they teach "reading". You should take a course.

  • LarryA||

    He did. They had unionized teachers.

  • Pip||

    "John MacArthur, the moneybags beyond Harper's magazine"

    beyond or behind?

  • QuietDesperation||

    Betwixt?

  • ||

    Beneath?

  • Brian Doherty||

    Fixed. You'll have to read it again after refreshing your browser to find out which word was meant.

  • ||

    Besieging?

  • Almanian||

    Befuddled?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Beneath, Between, & Behind.

    Surprised you didn't get that one, Almanian...

  • Almanian||

    Like I said, "befuddled"

  • QuietDesperation||

    "Progressive Intellectuals"

    That's one of them there oxy-morons, ain't it?

    Damn them intuhmalectuals and their high falutin' gummint programs!

  • ||

    Fucking cognitive dissonance, how does it work?

    -or-

    Fucking hypocrisy, how does it work?

  • Juice||

    It works like Ron Paul's taxpayer subsidized health insurance.

  • Whappan?||

    If I'm not mistaken, Paul has opted out of both the congressional health insurance plan, as well as the pension.

  • ||

    Headline June 10th 2011: Harper's files for bankruptcy. Obama prepares bailout package.

  • ||

    The staunch defender of unions, whoin a 2009 Harper's piece called the UAW “the country’s best and traditionally most honest mass labor organization,”

    No justice, no peace, motherfucker.

  • yonemoto||

    I'm really not sure what an auto union is doing in publishing. Isn't this some sort of antitrust violation?

  • yonemoto||

    Oh, I forgot. Unions are exempt from antitrust.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Some cartels are more equal than others.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Some cartels are more equal than others.

  • Spazmo||

    But libertarians don't like antitrust laws.

  • yonemoto||

    yeah but if we're going to have them, they should be used for all incorporated organization, not just pick and choose.

  • cynical||

    But we like equality before the law, since it tends to discourage the creation of shitty laws by forcing the high and mighty to suffer their ill effects like everyone else.

  • Almanian||

    The UAW's into all sorts of bidnesses now - grocery, a fair amount of gummint employees (at least in MI), retailers.

    They're bad - they're nationwide.

    /ZZ

  • DRM||

    “I confess that I remain confused about the goal of the people seeking union representation...Certainly, the union will not be able to solve the financial problems of the magazine or get us more subscribers, newsstand buyers or advertisers. It will, of course, be able to collect initiation fees and dues from you.”

    He's insufficiently cynical. Sure, UAW representation will actually accelerate Harper's collapse, if anything. But in the cases of GM, Delphi, and Chrysler, we just saw that being represented by the UAW gets you in line for government favors.

  • ||

    I confess that I remain confused about the goal of the people seeking union representation

    I've always thought it was perfectly clear:

    (1) To leverage mo' money out of their boss, and

    (2) To obtain job security and evade personal responsibility and accountability via work rules and the grievance process.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    As much fun as it is to point out obvious hypocrisy, I'm just not sure how unionizing the deck chairs on this particular Titanic is going to help it avoid that big, floating chunk of frozen water dead ahead.

  • ||

    Look at the silver lining, FoE. When Harper's goes toes up, we'll be able to blame the UAW.

  • Brett L||

    Top. Men.

  • radar||

    I only scanned that article briefly, so I'm sure I missed the explanation why a bunch of editors are joining the UAW. They building Impalas down at Harper's now?

  • Almanian||

    Volts - it's teh FUTURE!

  • Almanian||

    As one who negotiates with unions for living, this is just delicious reading. I love that McAsshole's completely, utterly flabbergasted that HIS PEOPLE would want to join a union.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Asshole...

  • Nelson Muntz||

    Ha ha.

  • WhereYou'reWrong||

    Michael Moore is another big union promoter for everyone but his own employees.

  • omg||

    Harper's could feel the surge of that people power that there be in a union.

    They don't think it be like it is, but it do.

  • ||

    I had forgotten that harpers existed until the Internet reminded me

  • marlok||

    You can probably go ahead and forget again. With unionization, an opinion rag like Harper's will certainly go the way of Eastern Airlines.

  • Invisible Finger||

    I didn't think the quality of Harper's could get any lower, but the editors found a way!!

  • Juice||

    Work at a magazine, join auto workers union.

    What is this? I don't even.

  • prolefeed||

    Staffers couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony: The staunch defender of unions, whoin a 2009 Harper's piece called the UAW “the country’s best and traditionally most honest mass labor organization,” was now on the other side of the table as the "worst kind of factory owner," as one staffer put it to me.

    Hypocrisy is not irony. Harper's must cater to the lefties who read it -- but it also must function as a business with a bottom line.

    Hence the hypocrisy to resolve the cognitive dissonance.

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