The NewsGuild of New York and Sports Illustrated Union took legal action against The Arena Group on Thursday following the recent round of layoffs at Sports Illustrated. The groups accuse the company of targeting employees for termination who were engaged in union activities.
“It’s clear that The Arena Group ownership is using an engineered dispute over the SI license as a cover to union-bust and unlawfully target our members,” Susan DeCarava, president of the NewsGuild of New York, said in a statement to press.
On Jan 18., The Arena Group sent an email to Sports Illustrated staffers, notifying them that the license under which the Arena Group operates the Sports Illustrated brand had been revoked by Authentic Brand Group (ABG). This revoking led to significant job cuts that will impact every member of the Sports Illustrated Union. Supervisors and managers at the publication will not be laid terminated, the press release from the union notes.
Most union employees were given 90 days of notice for their unemployment, which aligns with the New York State WARN Act. However, a handful were immediately let go, including a union officer who had filed a grievance against the company.
The NewsGuild of New York and Sports Illustrated Union aren’t the only ones that have accused The Arena Group of engaging in union-busting tactics. Former CEO Ross Levinsohn resigned from the board of The Arena Group earlier this month, calling the actions of the board and the recent announced layoffs “abhorrent” and “feckless.”
“Today’s obliteration of Sports Illustrated’s storied newsroom and the union busting tactics is the last straw. These actions and the inaction of this board are illegal, riddled with self-dealing and will almost certainly lead to shareholder lawsuits,” Levinsohn wrote in his resignation letter. “In my more than 30 years inside of public and private companies, I’ve never witnessed more negligence in my career.”
Levinsohn was ousted as CEO of The Arena Group in December of 2023 after an AI scandal involving fake writers that generated content for the brand. At the time, the company claimed the profiles were licensed content from a third party company called AdVon Commerce. Though Levinsohn departed as CEO, he was part of its board until the announcement of The Arena Group job cuts on Jan. 18.
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