There are few individuals in media worse than Tucker Carlson. The Fox News host regularly espouses white nationalist views on his nightly show, spreading his dangerous, hateful ideology to millions of viewers (and to the White House). To put it succinctly: he fucking sucks.
And yet, tonight, Carlson managed to make an extremely good point when discussing the recent mass layoffs at BuzzFeed, which have left more than 200 people unemployed: it would have been harder to lay off so many employees with so little regard if they had formed a union.
“Peretti spent a lot of time extolling the virtues of inclusivity and diversity and of course attacking conservatives as ‘racist,’” Carlson said. “At the same time, Peretti crushed the efforts of his own staff to unionize.”
It’s true. Back in 2017, BuzzFeed employees were considering organizing a union, following in the footsteps of Gizmodo Media Group, Huffington Post, and many other publications that have organized in recent years. In response, CEO Jonah Peretti argued that a union wasn’t needed. He told staff that though he believed unions were a good idea in general, a union wasn’t necessary at his special butterfly of a company.
A little more than a year later and it’s looking like Peretti was doing exactly what everyone suspected at the time: engaging in union-busting for his own benefit.
Though a union can’t necessarily stop layoffs, by negotiating with management, unions can secure certain conditions for employees if mass layoffs occur. After BuzzFeed began laying people off, an employee movement demanding that laid off employees be compensated for their unused paid time-off gained traction. That’s exactly the kind of condition that could have been written into a union contract had the company organized a year ago. Unions can also negotiate the option of buyouts for employees, as Gizmodo Media Group did. But at BuzzFeed it’s too late for any of this—former staff are now forced to rely on the generosity of their boss rather than a written contract they had a hand in creating.
As despicable as Carlson is, he’s right. It is hypocritical for Peretti to pose as a supporter of social justice while fucking over his own employees.
But unsurprisingly, Carlson doesn’t exactly nail the solution.
“Greedy, stupid bosses who buy a pass from the business press by mouthing progressive platitudes are indeed very common,” Carlson said on his show. “What’s rare are humane bosses who care about the people who work for them.”
The first part of this quote is inarguably true. From Amazon to Thinx, bosses who espouse progressive views while treating their workers like shit are everywhere. But though it would be nice if those bosses were more humane, workers can’t count on it, and that’s why we need unions. You can’t trust people who have the power and incentive to exploit you to have your best interests at heart. If workers want to survive, they need to take some of that power for themselves. And that’s exactly what collective organizing does. It’s a shame that BuzzFeed employees weren’t able to use this power to their advantage.
As weird as it may seem, this isn’t the first time that Carlson has paid lip service to economic populism on his show. Recently, he’s made economic arguments blasting the ruling class. Even his anti-immigrant rants are often framed as populist concerns.
This should strike fear into the hearts of all progressives and leftists. If the only person on television advocating for the rights of the working class is doing so in the same breath as dehumanizing immigrants, we are truly fucked. To save this country, we will need to take back populism from the right and assert what should be obviously true: that social justice is inextricable from ending economic inequality. Looking out for the basic human rights of all people does not need to come at the expense of marginalized groups. We have more power together.