Barstool Sports has long been the subject of controversy on its social media outlets for a number of reasons, but now CEO Dave Portnoy is in hot water for another reason—union busting.
Portnoy tweeted about his negative views on unions after hearing his workers wanted to unionize. His stance directly opposes workers’ rights protected by the National Labor Rights Act of 1935, and he is anything but subtle about his opinions.
Rafi Letzter replied to his tweet on Aug. 12, saying that for anyone employed by Barstool that wanted to have a private chat about the unionization process, his “DMs are open.” Portnoy replied, “If you work for @barstoolsports and DM this man I will fire you on the spot.”
Yes, that threat is definitely as illegal as it looks.
It didn’t take long for labor lawyers to start weighing in, and David Rosenfeld was the one to take the charge. He hopes that the National Labor Relations Board, which is now investigating the charges against Portnoy and Barstool, will manage to wrench at least an apology out of the defiant Portnoy, who kept tweeting follow-ups to his original tweet, such as hoping his employees unionize “just so I can crush it and reassert my dominance.”
By this time, even the U.S. Department of Labor chimed in with a toll-free hotline for those who felt they were being targeted against the law. This brought in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), who sided with and reaffirmed the labor laws Portnoy was breaking, which of course led to the one and only Donald Trump Jr. giving his two cents about the matter by the afternoon of Aug. 13.
After the dust had settled, the inquiries into Barstool continued, and the NLRB case at this point is still open. With unions and worker benefits becoming one of many contentious topics in national discourse, it felt right to use this particular event as an example of how the United States needs to change the way it looks at labor.
Why is a man that directly threatens the well-being of his employees and holds opinions that are dangerous to the health of those he writes about held as the poster child of conservative economics? His habit of stirring up controversy runs back far before this particular engagement, like when he refused to apologize after saying a 20-year-old female employee would be too ugly for camera in five years. Or when one of Barstool Sports’ writers was fired after he wrote an article joking about a missing college student later found dead.
His company is related to so many individual incidents of mistreatment, endangerment and political incorrectness that it’s hard to understand why it still exists. Until you see that the company has grown with a $25 million investment from the media holding company The Chernin Group. Then, you remember that the things that matter to companies like Portnoy’s aren’t if they treat women like human beings, or give living wages to their employees or if they’re politically correct. It starts to make sense then why unions and workers’ rights aren’t at the top of their economic priorities, and why they’re used as collateral for Twitter controversy.
The only thing that matters is Barstool’s bottom line.