The NewsGuild of New York unequivocally condemns the decision by U.S. District Court Judge John L. Sinatra Jr that forces Starbucks Workers United to turn over confidential communications between workers and members of the press regarding their organizing efforts. This decision is an unprecedented violation of the fundamental principles of a free press and a brazen attack on workers’ rights.
Forcing sources to reveal themselves and their communications will inhibit whistleblowers and the exposure of corruption and bad acts, core functions of the media in a democracy. Moreover, in this case it will subject the sources to retaliation by Starbucks management, the very issue the whistleblowers sought to expose by contacting journalists. The decision aids Starbucks in inhibiting the workers’ right to organize. The chilling effect this decision will have on the ability of journalists to produce fair and balanced reporting on labor disputes cannot be overstated. Workers need to be able to speak to the media without fear of being exposed.
Democracy depends on journalism and journalism depends on the free flow of information and the unfettered ability to hold those in power accountable. As a union of journalists and media professionals, we are appalled by this attack on the rights of workers and on the press. We look forward to a swift reversal of this ruling in the Court of Appeals.