Now in the News: The Supreme Court Case That Has Unions On Edge

January 15, 2023

The Supreme Court Case That Has Unions On Edge

At issue is whether employers can sue unions accused of destroying property as part of a labor dispute in state court, or whether such a lawsuit is preempted by federal labor law. The case Glacier Northwest Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters stems from a 2017 labor dispute in which workers at a Washington concrete company went on strike in protest of contract negotiation delays.

The company filed a lawsuit in state court against the union that represents the truck drivers involved, arguing that it should be compensated for the cost of cement that became unusable after workers walked off the job.

Glacier Northwest argued that the stoppage was intentionally timed to ruin cement, while the Teamsters said they were careful to prevent the mix from hardening by returning cement trucks to the property and keeping them running before striking. “The right to strike is crucial to the collective-bargaining process and allows a union to time a strike to apply substantial economic pressure,” the Teamsters wrote to the Supreme Court.

Washington’s Supreme Court ruled that Glacier Northwest’s civil lawsuit should be dismissed because the legality of the strike falls under the NLRB (which later sided with the union). In court filings, businesses and conservative legal groups argue these types of lawsuits are not preempted by federal law and should be allowed to proceed.

Unions and labor supporters are concerned that doing so would incur substantial legal expenses and put the economic costs associated with strikes onto the workers, thereby lessening the leverage on employers that discourage employees from utilizing the tactic. “Who’s going to go on strike when you know that if your strike is successful, you’ll be sued?,” Cornell University’s Cathy Creighton told Shift.

Publishers Reprioritize Monetization Over Subscriber Growth

Publishers across the board are now deprioritizing subscriber growth initiatives and “volume at all costs” mentalities and are instead focusing their attention firmly on the highly engaged, highly monetizable audience groups that are most likely to sustain their businesses through a difficult period.

Vanity metrics are being replaced by an emphasis on revenue generation and yield maximization as publishers attempt to inject greater discipline into their subscription approaches and align them more closely with their business needs. Subscriber bases might be leveling off or even contracting, but publishers have a new goal in mind: revenue. “Subscription publishers will pay more attention to their price-volume-mix in 2023,” said Fortune’s chief customer officer, Selma Stern, referring to the heavily reduced pricing many publishers have offered in recent years as they’ve optimized to subscriber volume. “Ultimately, paywall revenue will become more important than subscriber numbers,” she added.

The Washington Post’s chief subscriptions officer, Michael Ribero, said he expects a similar recalibration. As the bar for attracting and retaining paying subscribers gets higher, publishers will need to “focus on the customers and products with the highest return on investment,” he said. Publishers with robust data and a close understanding of their existing subscriber bases will be best positioned to “make better choices for a sustainable future” as the year unfolds, he added.

Oregon Paper Closing After More Than Century Of Publishing

The Mail Tribune in Medford’s publisher and CEO Steven Saslow on Wednesday announced the newspaper’s abrupt closure on its website, saying unused paid subscriptions would be refunded. “It is with heavy hearts that we announce that as of Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, the Mail Tribune will cease all operations,” the announcement on the website said.

The paper stopped producing a print edition in September but continued operating in a digital format, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. “This was a difficult business decision,” wrote Saslow, whose Rosebud Media bought the paper from GateHouse Media in 2017. “The shuttering of this institution is a real loss for all constituents in Southern Oregon.”

He wrote that declines in advertising spending and difficulty hiring staff precipitated the closure. Rosebud Media closed a sibling paper, the Ashland Daily Tidings, in 2021. The Medford metropolitan area is home to nearly 224,000 and is the biggest population center in southern Oregon.

The paper was formed as a merger between the Medford Mail and the Medford Tribune in 1909, guided by editor George Putnam. The newspaper dates to the late 1800s through a predecessor and produced the first edition as the Mail Tribune in 1907. In 1934 the newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for public service, the first news organization in Oregon to do so.