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July 14, 2002

Media Bias Against Labor

One reason I have so much trouble taking the whole "media bias" against Clinton line seriously is that I read all the pro-Clinton rebuttals in the same media in most cases. But working as a union activist, I have too much experience with real media bias-- the complete blackout of major events if they have to do with working people and union organizing. Just check out this story about the first Congressional hearing in 18 years dealing with the illegal violations of labor laws by corporate America, 24,000 documented acts of corporate lawbreaking in 1998 alone. Yet the media barely gave it a notice, much less a full-scale analysis.

Frankly, Enron and WorldCom are nasty scandals that mostly effected the lives of people rich enough to have money in the stock market. For most working people, the real corporate abuse happens every day with violations of labor and health laws in their workplace. And if you speak up for a union, your boss will undoubtedly break the law and fire your ass, knowing there are far fewer penalties for screwing your workers than for screwing your investors.

Or to point out an even more obvious media bias-- when was the last time you saw a fawning personal profile of a union leader, similar to the profiles of business leaders that was the staple of the business press until six months ago? The only union stories the media covers are strikes and indictments, with zero coverage of what the vast number of union folks do the 99.9% of days they are not walking a picket line.

Posted by Nathan at July 14, 2002 11:21 PM

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Actually, there's a nice piece about Gettelfinger (well, it's about the UAW's parts organizing campaign in general, but it says nice things about Gettelfinger in particular) in Business Week. It seems crazy, but Business Week is one of the few mainstream periodicals that still does decent labor reporting.

Posted by: Jake at July 15, 2002 06:15 PM

No question- Business Week has always covered labor with better coverage than most outlooks and many guest commentaries that were even pro-labor.

Posted by: Nathan at July 16, 2002 12:57 PM

I think that "the revitalized union movement"/Sweeney hagiography has appeared in the NYT at irregular intervals. They used to get me all happy, but I'll confess that on this point, Kaus' contrarian anti-lefty theory makes sense. Kaus argues that (when a paper bothers to cover unions) the reporters who request a union beat tend to be a) pro-union and b) want to have a story to cover, so the "resurgence" of unions has been oft-noted without membership reflecting it. (of course, that the bleeding has been staunched given both anti-union momentum and deindustrialization is, to me, an amazing accomplishment of union organizers, a group for which I have major admiration)

Posted by: Jeff at July 17, 2002 02:19 PM

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