Note: 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, follows:
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 evidently 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.
Zapata Eunice Wong