Management at the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, announced plans on Wednesday to scrap the Express, a free newspaper for local commuters.
According to the newspaper’s union, the Washington Post Guild, many of the people losing their jobs are young, female employees. The union said that all Express employees were underpaid and excluded from the newsroom’s union contract, and that some of these workers noticed they were not being fairly compensated and started looking into unionizing.
The Post Express’ last issue will be Thursday. Dan Caccavaro, the executive editor of Express, told DCist he was unsure what would happen to the “hawkers,” workers who distributed the papers every day.
In a post on its website, the Guild condemned the layoffs:
These employees, many of them young women, performed the same jobs as other staff in our newsroom for substantially lesser pay. They published our journalism, and we published theirs. They were excluded from a union contract that would have protected them only by legal and bureaucratic fictions that labeled them a different entity within our company, though Post Express and The Washington Post are both owned by Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world.
Earlier this year, a number of Express employees recognized this disparity and explored unionizing — and they had not given up on that hope. When these layoffs came, without a union, our colleagues in Express were not guaranteed the same protections as guild-covered Washington Post employees.
That sounds gross as hell, and also, depressingly, right on par with the terrible business practices at Bezos’ other operations, like, say, Amazon warehouses.
The Post’s public relations team explained in a blog that the change is part of a digital shift: “more and more readers are consuming the Post’s content digitally, and the Post will continue to serve those who commute via Metro with digital products, including its mobile site, apps, newsletters, and podcasts.”
The Post’s paywall is pretty stubborn, so now commuters will miss out on any kind of free news service, although they are eligible for a free 60-day trial. But my biggest issue here is that exactly no one should think Jeff Bezos, Mr. Amazon himself, would be worried about a little declining print advertising revenue from the the internet’s takeover.