by Jerry Lambe
Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy was called out by the New York Department of Labor’s official Twitter account and Democratic House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Tuesday for engaging in alleged unlawful labor practices.
Portnoy’s statements came in response to two Twitter users who offered to assist any Barstool employees looking to unionize.
“If you work for Barstool and want to have a private chat about the unionization process, how little power your boss has to stop you, and how you can leverage that power to make your like better: my DMs are open,” Twitter user Rafi Letzer posted Monday night.
Portnoy responded Tuesday, retweeting Letzter’s offer and writing, “If you work for [Barstool Sports] and DM this man I will fire you on the spot.”
An hour later, Portnoy retweeted lawyer Matt Weir offering free legal advice for Barstool employees that run into problems unionizing and wrote, “Anybody who hires this lawyer will be fired immediately and I will personally sue you for damages and back wages.”
It didn’t take long for the New York Department of Labor to weigh in on Portnoy’s stance, retweeting a screenshot of his statements and letting him know that it would be illegal for him to follow through with his threats to Barstool employees.
“It is illegal to take any unfavorable action – including termination – against employees for union-related activities under the National Labor Relations Act. New York is a proud union state. We say no way, no how to intimidation, threats and union busting,” the agency’s official account wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez also got in on the action, saying using Portnoy’s own words against him.
“If you’re a boss tweeting firing threats to employees trying to unionize, you are likely breaking the law & can be sued, in your words, ‘on the spot.’ ALL workers in the US have the protected freedom to organize for better conditions,” she tweeted.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, employers can neither encourage nor discourage employees from union activities “by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment.”
The controversy over unionizing began when Barstool’s rival website “The Ringer” announced its editorial staff would be unionizing on Monday. Portnoy, who likely did not check with his company’s legal department beforehand, immediately wrote a blog post which was published Monday night detailing his utter abhorrence for unions.
“I hope and I pray that Barstool employees try to unionize. I can’t tell you how much I want them to unionize. Just so I can smash their little union to smithereens. Nothing would please me more than to break it into a million little pieces. Oh, you think you deserve health insurance? You don’t think you should have to work with squirrels in the office? You don’t think I should duct tape Hank to the walls? Well now yis [sic] can’t leave! No more free water! No more vacation days! I’m gonna dump rats into the walls! You haven’t seen anything yet! Unionize Nate! Unionize Trent! I dare you! Trent you’ll be back working security at Walmart in a blink of an eye! KFC will be doing my accounting! No more fancy pants weddings! Hank will be an exhibit at the Museum of Science! UNIONIZE I DARE YOU!”
Portnoy’s site is often described as satirical, but the officials were not laughing.