After the founder of sports blog, Barstool Sports, tweeted that he would fire any employee who tried to unionize, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized him. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) companies cannot fire or discipline employees attempting to unionize. Ocasio-Cortez stated that if he was a boss trying to tweet threats of firing employees discussing unionization, it was likely that he broke the law. Just as the Barstool Sports founder wrote that he would fire such an employee on the spot, Ocasio-Cortez responded he was opening himself up to a lawsuit.
According to its website, Barstool Sports is a sports and pop culture blog covering the latest news and viral highlights with blogs, videos and podcasts. While the founder’s anti-unionizing position was greeted with approval on right-leaning media sites, such as Fox News, the New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) responded with its own tweet. The NYDOL stated that it was illegal to take any unfavorable action, including termination, against employees for union-related activities under the NLRA.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the nation’s largest federation of unions, also weighed in, warning the NLRA prohibits employers from engaging in unfair labor practices, including interfering with the formation or administration of any labor organization. An attorney posted that any employees of Barstool Sports could contact him if they had questions about their right to unionize, to which the founder tweeted back that any employee that hired that lawyer would be sued for damages.
Several Barstool Sports employees defended the founder, with one stating he was not anti-union but did not think a union made sense for the company. One employee stated that though the Barstool Sports founder may seem rash, he was a good guy behind the scenes with his workers. Another stated that the company offered excellent health insurance to its employees. While the employees were coming to the founder’s defense, the information they shared was used by those who were anti-union. A collective bargaining agreement would guarantee those health benefits and other perks, rather than leave it to the whim of management should they want to get rid of these items.