MacArthur Responds to Harper’s Union

Earlier today we told John “Rick” MacArthur that it was his move in the war of words between himself and the union at Harper’s. Well, he might hate the Internet, but he must read us, because he has issued a reply to the writers who signed the union’s letter.

MacArthur’s bottom line: The signers of the letter must not know the facts, because he’s in favor of the union, and any layoffs have nothing to do with its formation.

As the back-and-forth continues, it’s worth wondering if the environment at Harper’s can ever recover from this, no matter what happens. A public spat between employees and employer is not something that typically yields positive results.

Check out MacArthur’s full letter after the jump – and since we said it to MacArthur before – your move, union.

To all signers of the open letter,

I understand that you care deeply for Harper’s Magazine and that is the reason why you were willing to put your name to the letter.  It is my feeling, however, that many of you signed this letter without all the facts, including the incorrect information that I am not negotiating in good faith with the union.

The election result, in which a majority of eligible editorial employees voted for union representation, was certified by the NLRB on October 22, 2010.  Since that time, Harper’s has been prepared to negotiate in good faith.  The union has put off or cancelled meeting dates and has yet to submit its proposals for a contract.

As many of you are aware, I have always been a staunch supporter of the UAW, and this has not changed.  I have spoken to various locals and the Region 9 Convention, and anyone who has read my book about NAFTA knows my position.  The accounts that I opposed union organization are simply false.  When the union petitioned for an election, we agreed, but objected to the inclusion of certain people I considered part of the management team.  The union agreed that some were management and disagreed about others. The Board upheld the union’s position and we went forward.

Faced with increased financial losses, we have had to cut expenses.  This year I laid off a high-salaried person from the business side and proposed two editorial layoffs of employees whose job functions could be absorbed. The layoffs have nothing to do with the union.  This is not the first time I have had to lay off an employee.  Last year, prior to the union’s petition, I laid off a business-side employee, and during the past year, two editorial positions have not been replaced.  One has only to look at the layoffs at the Village Voice and the buyouts at the New York Times to know that print publications are reducing staff to cut costs, notwithstanding union representation. We are negotiating the layoffs in the editorial department with the union.

Since 1980, when the Harper’s Magazine Foundation was formed to save the publication, it has been my goal to uphold the highest standards of quality at the magazine. I can assure you that we will take the steps necessary to survive, and that our cuts will not affect the quality of the journalism or the writers who contribute to Harper’s.  As for our staff represented by the union, we will do our utmost to come to an agreement that would continue the fair treatment of our employees, which has always been, and continues to be, my policy.