Barstool Sports has agreed to delete a pair of anti-union tweets and to notify its employees about their right to unionize, Bloomberg Law reports. One tweet, which was posted by the company’s co-founder David Portnoy, threatened to fire any employees who attempted to contact a union supporter “on the spot.” The informal settlement with the National Labor Relations Board also confirmed that Barstool Sports was behind a fake twitter account posing as a Barstool labor movement in an apparent attempt to out union supporters. It is illegal in the US for an employer to threaten reprisal against its employees for unionizing.
The dispute arose shortly after staff at The Ringer announced their plans to unionize on August 12th. Later that day, Portnoy re-posted a 2015 blog post responding to the news in which he dared the company’s employees to unionize so he could “smash their little union to smithereens.” He followed up on Twitter on August 13th by threatening to fire and sue union supporting employees. In response the IWW Freelance Journalists Union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
One of Portnoy’s tweets threatened to fire employees “on the spot” for contacting a union supporter. Image: Twitter via Bloomberg Law
Barstool Sports did not admit fault as part of the settlement, but it now has to remind its employees of their right to unionize via both email, as well as through notices posted at its offices in Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Watertown, Mass. In the notice, which was posted by IWW Freelance Journalists Union on its Twitter account, the company says it will not attempt to prevent its employees from unionizing, and will not threaten those that do.
The company also agreed to remove a video titled “Professor Nate breaks down the entire Barstool Sports Union controversy,” in the settlement. The video mocked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after she criticized Portnoy’s tweets. Bloomberg Law reports that the video, which claimed Ocasio-Cortez was just trying “to get a retweet from the president” has been deleted from YouTube, but remains up on Facebook as of publication.
The settlement also confirms that the company was behind a fake union twitter account called Barstool Sports Union which claimed to represent “the labor movement inside Barstool Sports.” The Twitter account solicited DMs from the company’s employees in what appeared to be an attempt to identify union supporters. “Would prefer to stay anonymous right now in beginning stages of unionization. DM. Serious inquiries only,” the account tweeted on the same day as Portnoy’s two anti-union tweets. The company removed the account as part of the settlement.
This isn’t the first time an employer has been criticized for posting anti-union tweets. Last year a judge ruled that Tesla CEO Elon Musk broke the law when he tweeted that joining a union meant giving up Tesla stock options. Musk was told to be present at a meeting at the company’s Fremont factory where a notice would be read to confirm that Tesla broke the law.