Ten days ago, news emerged of mass layoffs at Sports Illustrated. Since then, not much more has happened.
Some thought, given the sweeping nature of the initial proclamations, that SI was simply disappearing. That hasn’t happened. However, enough employees have been let go to prompt legal action by the union that represents SI workers.
On Thursday, the NewsGuild of New York and Sports Illustrated Union took legal action against The Arena Group over the recent layoffs.
An unfair labor practice charge accuses the company of terminating employees because of supporting the union, engaging in union activities, and engaging in other protected activities.
“It’s clear that The Arena Group ownership is using an engineered dispute over the SI license as a cover to union-bust and unlawfully target our members,” Susan DeCarava, president of The NewsGuild of New York. said in a release issued on Monday. “Filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board is just the first step, as we continue to explore all options for our membership.”
The press release points out that Ross Levinsohn has resigned from The Arena Group’s board, citing the “obliteration of Sports Illustrated’s storied newsroom and . . . union busting tactics.”
The release also explains that, on January 19, every member of the SI union was told that they would be laid off due to the revocation of The Arena Group’s license to publish Sports Illustrated content. “Supervisors and managers at the publication, though, have not been laid off,” the Monday release explains.
It’s unclear what’s going on. There’s plenty of new content at SI.com, carrying the bylines of actual human beings (which, when it comes to SI, can no longer be presumed).
So it appears that there’s still a viable business, even though the events of 10 days ago caused many to assume that Sports Illustrated the digital operation had gone the way of, you know, Sports Illustrated the weekly magazine.
Making consumers think SI died might not be a great P.R. strategy. It possibly could be, however, a good way to clear out a bunch of unionized employees. If not, you know, all of them.