Veteran labor reporter Mike Elk has been sidelined by his publication, Politico, shortly after pushing to unionize the workforce there.
According to report in the Daily Caller, Elk has been banned from the DC office. Elk has not had his name on a byline since January despite there being ample opportunities for him to use his expertise to write informed stories related to recent labor disputes such as a work slowdown at the West coast ports and an on-going historic oil refinery strike.
One explanation mentioned in the Caller piece for Elk’s absence from the newsroom is due to him being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to a source he worked with on a story committing suicide.
While PTSD does constitute a disability it is not grounds for banning someone from a newsroom or preventing them from working remotely and writing new stories. In fact, many people with PTSD are able to effectively work in an office setting with reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Elk was able to perform effectively with PTSD while at In These Times.
But even if Politico is refusing Elk entry to the office in order to become ADA compliant, why no news stories? This is, after all, the digital age. Politico started as a blog before expanding into print and does not need to have its reporters in the physical office to edit and publish their work. Which raises the question as to whether the refusal to allow Elk to work has more to do with his organizing activities than any disabilities.
Elk’s push to unionize the Politico workforce made headlines and sparked a conversation about the nature of work rules and compensation for journalism in the digital era. Perhaps that is a conversation Politico management would rather not have at all, let alone in their newsroom.