Having my say: A word about recent accusations toward the Daily Kos Guild

The following is shared on behalf of Daily Kos Guild member Leslie K. Sterling. The Daily Kos Guild is a unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521.

Daily Kos has been my blog home for nineteen years. I’ve watched it grow through many difficult periods; I’ve survived many purges and pie fights. I still remember the rush of joy I felt when I was offered the opportunity to work full time for this place I have loved for so long. I am relatively new to the staff, though, so I consider my years as a community member to be the more significant credential in terms of my right to speak up and speak out about the way we treat each other here. 

I wrote this two weeks ago, before the DK Guild user account was closed by management. Since then I’ve spent many days and nights weighing the risks of publishing this under my own name. But the longer I waited, the more it felt like an inescapable matter of honor. Now I am certain:regardless of the cost, I must speak up.

The actions of DKM during the past year of growing financial uncertainty and during the last nine weeks since layoff plans were announced have been a disappointment that has rocked me deeper than any other job-related crisis of my lifetime. My rose-colored glasses have been slapped off my face and into the dirt. 

I do not have the heart for a point-by-point rebuttal of everything that has been said, but do feel obligated to defend my colleagues and friends with respect to accusations based on social location and privilege. 

“[T]he Guild has been nothing but disdainful of our Black-, LGBTQ-, and women-led negotiating team.”

It is unfortunate that both sides feel they have been treated with disdain. At the same time, any implication that the issues between DKG and the company’s bargaining team have something to do with that team being BIPOC/LGBTQ-led is an insult without foundation.

In point of fact, the Guild made every effort to recognize the leaders of the DKM team were merely carrying out directives from above, and strove to remember that our ire should be focused on the higher-ups whose decisions made the situation necessary.

Our main problem with the composition of the DKM bargaining team after January 12 is that they are all recent hires with no institutional knowledge or pre-existing connection to the history, ideals, or workers of the site. They don’t know who we are, what we do, or have any direct experience of why DK is important to us. 

Perhaps that made it easier for them to keep a dispassionate focus on the bottom line with little concern for the special situations of the people whose lives are being upended. Some folks offered to give up their own jobs to save more vulnerable coworkers, but were not allowed to do so. Lists and numbers were treated as more important than the needs of real people. This is the exact opposite of what most people expect from a pro-labor organization. 

Anyone attempting to frame this dispute as a case of the marginalized being treated with disdain by the privileged, must first be made aware of the following fact:

The Daily Kos Guild ALSO has a Black-, LGBTQ-, and women-led negotiating team.

The harshest truth of all is what the decisions of the Black-, LGBTQ-, and women-led DKM negotiating team accomplished: a reduction in staff that affected the sections of the Company most populated by BIPOC, LGBTQ and women members of the DK Guild, leading to the largest group loss of BIPOC, LGBTQ, and women employees in the company’s history.

Most important: no one from DKG has said or suggested that anyone should leave DK, boycott DK, stop subscribing or stop contributing in any way. 

I saw community members asking whether increased donations might help save jobs, and obviously DKG had no way to answer that, since DKM did not propose a targeted fundraising effort for that purpose. In spite of that, to my knowledge, no one from DKG has been discouraging engagement or financial contributions. Ever. If it was happening and I didn’t notice it, I’m sure I will be corrected if I am wrong.

I dare anyone anywhere to accuse me of caring only about myself and not about the company as a whole. Anyone who knows anything about me knows how much I love this place, and I know I speak for many when I say that I do NOT want to see DK go under. Daily Kos has been a literal lifeline for me and for countless millions of others, most of whom never even create accounts here, but depend on this community as a source of fact-based news, commentary, and reassurance that we are not losing our minds while the worst of MAGA world swirls and rages around us.

Some of us have been here a very long time and know the community as family. Families can fight, and we can call each other in, but let’s be real: While disappointment and hurt on both sides is normal, claims of malicious intent by union members or implications that we want to take the site down are unfair and untrue. These jobs are more than just the way we make our living; they are the way we make a difference in the world, the way we manifest our deep need to advance the cause of inclusive justice.  Don’t you know us? Haven’t you seen the generous hearts and souls of those who have worked for years to make this site what it is?

In the last two weeks I have read comments vilifying members of the Guild that blew my socks off. Some of them have come from the usual suspects, but others have really stung, because they have been written by people I deeply respect, and people I thought respected me in return.

It is a challenge and a risk for BIPOC and LGBTQ folks to organize for workplace justice under the best of circumstances. It is infuriating to speak out and then be accused of lying about the terms of our agreements, the people who stepped up to represent us, and the difficulty of dealing with this staff shakeup.

It’s been maddening to hear these accusations from management; to hear them from the community, which is usually so dedicated to defending the voices of women, LGBTQ and BIPOC activists, is nothing short of heartbreaking. It is as if the entire community turned on a dime, and all our past contributions to the site have been forgotten, or are no longer important. That is a gut punch I will need a long time to recover from, and I know I am not alone.

These buyouts and layoffs have torn our workplace apart and torn our lives apart and a lot of folks are struggling to cope with the aftermath. There is a world of hurt and grieving going on that is not helped by having beatings continue until morale improves.

Support for DKG from the community means everything. I continue to hope there are pro-union community members who stand with us and want to offer help and encouragement. The organizing workers at DK, and those whose employment here has recently ended, do not deserve to be used as a punching bag, when we all need to be on the same page, still working together towards progressive goals that protect the rights and people we care about the most.

We will never have the loudest megaphone here, but we are not liars or bigots. The very best way to support us right now is to act with compassion, and remember that we are all real people doing our best to hold things together amidst a whirlwind of difficult circumstances.

Somehow, all of us must continue to do everything possible to keep this place going and get ready for our usual presidential year surge, a surge that could begin as early as this Fall, when candidate debates on the Republican side should be getting interesting. If we hang on until then, who knows what upswing may follow?


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DKG is a Pacific Media Workers Guild member, a local of the NewsGuild/Communication Workers of America, and was certified as the bargaining unit of represented staff in 2022. As a member of The NewsGuild/Communication Workers of America, we move in solidarity with all our union colleagues across the country and the larger worker rights movement.

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Hunter Paniagua

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