A response to Kristi Gustafson Barlette’s anti-union comments

I heard today from many of my colleagues about anti-union comments posted by Kristi Gustafson Barlette on her Times Union Facebook page.

“I find unions protect the weak, and don’t produce viable results. People don’t DESERVE raises, they earn them,” Kristi wrote in response to a reader. She went on to add: “If you believe you should earn more, and your company doesn’t give it to you, then leave — find another job.”

Kristi’s comments were viewed by many of her colleagues in the newsroom as a slap in the face. It has been five years since employees at the Times Union have had a raise, and it is not because employees don’t “deserve” one. And they should not have to leave to get one.

But let me back up a minute: I have to say any interaction I’ve ever had with Kristi has been pleasant. We have a good professional relationship. Recently we’ve worked well together to boost traffic to the Getting There blog, and her advice has proven successful. I expect to continue to work well with her.

But I agree with the many employees who contacted me after seeing her remarks. They are offensive. I think Kristi owes her colleagues an apology. It is distasteful and unprofessional for a member of management, which Kristi now is, to suggest her fellow employees who have not received raises don’t deserve them and that they should quit if they don’t like it.

And she is dead wrong about unions, in general and the Guild specifically. Ironically, I remember when Kristi was an editorial assistant and came to me, upset because a member of management had said if she wanted to be a reporter, she should leave, get experience elsewhere and then apply to come back. I told her that two of her colleagues, Bob Gardinier and Dennis Yusko, had been told the same thing. They persevered and became reporters. I advised her to do the same. She did and succeeded.

To say the Guild exists to protect the weak is nonsense. I could go on at length but let me give just a couple of real-life examples of what the union actually stands for.

When the Times Union wanted to outsource our print shop coordinator’s job to Connecticut, the Guild worked with him, proved he did more than the company gave him credit for and saved his job. When a colleague named Terri Currie was dying of cancer, her co-workers wanted to donate some of their sick time to her. The company would not allow it. I fought for years to obtain that benefit and finally did during our last round of negotiations (even though that did not lead to a contract). Two employees since have been able to be out on extended sick leave without losing pay, thanks to the Guild.

We’ve bargained a paid week off for new parents, a benefit for those who adopt and space for nursing mothers to pump breast milk.

That’s not “protecting the weak.” And those are the “viable results” good unions produce.


  • Douglas J. Gladstone

    Unions advocate for all the hard-working men and women, and their families, who are paying the taxes in this country. They support us working stiffs.

    Ms. Gustafson knows spas, fashion and very little else. It’s my understanding that one of her parents — I believe her mother — taught in elementary school. As a former educator and public servant, I can only imagine what she’s thinking right now.

    B/T/W, last time I looked, the big gig here was in government. Wonder what all the PEF and CSEA folks who read the TU will think of her remarks when word gets out. Way to drive up readership to the TU’s subscription base Kristi!

  • Jen

    The fact is that Kristi has forgotten where she came from. Something that is evidenced by these comments and her entire persona she tries to exemplify in her blog. The fact is that she is not a reporter. She is a blogger that got lucky to be at a newspaper who NEEDED someone to represent her age group. Kudos to her for taking her little talent and making it a career. She is only too happy to forget where she came from, she is likely ashamed at ever being a lowly editorial assistant.

  • Ellie Burhans

    Full disclosure: I have met Kristi, worked with her on two print articles, once as a source and once as a model. She is very nice in person and oddly enough at a seen shooting was the first person to make me feel welcome in Albany.

    But she seems to just make one mistake after another. And this is the one that puzzles me. Most of her readers are either in a union or do not know what one is. Why pick the fight? Also, why continue to disagree when you are proven wrong time and timw again about what a cost of living wage actually is?

    But my big question here, why blog about this now? The comment was made over a month ago.

  • Cathy Woodruff

    Thank you, Tim — both for this and for your diligent representation of my interests when I was a proud employee of the Times Union and a proud member of the Guild. You said it well.

  • Choobie Cohone

    The bottom line is Kristi does not “need” the union and would probably be just as happy to have all of the union employees at the Times Union disappear, because her online world is ruled by unpaid bloggers and commenters who do not cost the newspaper anything, except the expense of keeping the website running. Get rid of the union schlubs, and her and her kind have a bigger piece of the advertising pie that they earn by convincing gullible people to write for free for their website. They also generate more website advertising revenue when she posts idiotic comments like this one that start flame wars that get the comment trolls and her defenders fired up. It is sad that this is what the state of journalism has become in Albany.

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