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  • authored by lefkenny
  • published Wed, Sep 17, 2003

Media Yawning About Union Corruption Irks Writer

Finally a few words from other media about the lack of coverage of union corruption.

It is true that there is a distinct disinterest on the part of mainstream media or liberal media as Jim Sparkman puts it. The media simply does not support workers by their non-reporting.

Michelle Malkin, a Seattle Columnist makes a similar point in relation to the fiasco at the Miami-Dade Teachers Union: That there is national significance to union corruption in the public education system and that the importance of reporting on it should have been obvious.

Malkin's article was also very educational in that she showed the political influence that former teacher's union president Pat Tornillo wielded and the lack of coverage given especially by the New York Times.

Canadian news media suffer from the same yawn syndrome as their American counterparts when it comes to union corruption. It is as if some form of amnesia clouds the newsroom when it comes to disclosing union corruption scandals.

Surely what goes on in unions isn't just news to anti-union lobbyists. It's news for union members, their families and to working people in general.

Does the fact that news media do not give coverage to union corruption have any effect on the empowerment of disempowerment of workers? We would argue that it does. Full disclosure of unions' actions empowers workers, it educates union members allowing them to make better informed choices. The present blackout on reporting of union scandals only helps keep workers disempowered.

If workers were always kept abreast of the actions of their union officials -especially when they go astray - members just may take a more active role in their union affairs and effect some reform. Officials might be less likely to stray knowing that their actions will be reported to a wide audience.

This blackout on reporting on union scandals begs the question: "Are media organizations part of a conspiracy to keep workers down?" After all, the owners of media corporations tell writers what they can write - that is, if they want to continue to get a paycheck. But what about the publicly-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation? They report on union corruption as frequently as their privately owned counterparts. What's their excuse? We should ask them.

Damaris Perez Daugherty, lawyer, wife of a public school teacher, mother of two Miami public school children and founder of the Teachers Rights Advocacy Coalition in Miami put her solution this way to a Senate Committee in June 2003:

''We need federal Legislation that will wrest from [the United Teachers of Dade] and similar corrupt unions the power they have inappropriately usurped from the workers. We need you to come to the aid of workers in this country so that workers can reclaim their organizations and return them to their lofty goals. Without federal intervention, corrupt union executives will continue to manage dues monies as their personal expense accounts.''

As far as the mainstream media is concerned, working people don't seem to exist. They only appear in the news as props in other - more important people's - dramas. The alternative media seems to be following suit. Unions aren't criticized - it just wouldn't be right. If you're "alternative" that means you're supportive of organized labour - crooked or clean.

Malkin concludes that news media, specifically influential news media like the New York Times, never miss to drum beat about disclosure when it comes to corporate tooters but why will they not support workers and report on union officials who are caught at the trough (or in worse places). "Or will they stand aloof with the union thugs in snake's pajamas."

Written by MFD Online Contributors

  • posted by <Michael Troy Moore>
  • Wed, Sep 17, 2003 10:37am

I used to work in radio as a Host/Personailty KVHS( Bay area) & KXOA (Sacramento- Howard Stern Station) in the Nor- Cal Radio Market and if you think it's not under control, you are not listening to what is on the air, or more like what's not on the air, UFCW 588 for last few years pumped a lot of $$ into Sacramento Clear Channel Station (and other stations) buying ad's for the employers stores and trying to keep it's president image good in the area, and for political reasons, the commercial's could have been done FREE as a public service announcement but why do it for free when you can pay for it? Follow the money trail! see who it touches and see who they touch you will find who control's what we hear and see and that the Public Airwaves have been Hijacked to promote the products of the companies' who have common ownership through a parent company,
when you hear a song on the radio that is over played or doesn't fit the format Like why is Steve Ray Vaughn played right after Mettalica, or Tom Petty is played next to Whitesnake, or why are only some songs of an artist from long ago played on the air but the artist new stuff is ignored? even though it is better or as good as the old stuff and the artist is on tour, you will find that the artist old song are on a label owned by the station's parent company.

Air play for songs are just a Sonic billboard for products owned by the broadcasters
Pretty good deal for them!
Use the FCC to lock up the frequencies with license
and let them make the call on what gets played and you have a restrained of trade in the music business the little guys forced out of business because they can't get access.

Oh yea? If they have the control over the songs, just image the control they have over the NEWS.
I need not say anymore.

  • posted by yankeebythewater
  • Wed, Sep 17, 2003 3:15pm

Years ago a strike would make front page headlines because that was when unions were in fact, unions. The executive did, to a point, rape, the rank and file, however, not to the extent we see it today.

In a small town where there is only a couple of sawmills, money is made and money is spent. The local newspaper will produce front page articles on the events of the union. That is community. You do not find community in the LA Times, etc., that is not news. News for them is currently how to win the war. Television news is not any better.

Even with the internet, regardless, union, non-union - Joe and Mary Six Pack, doesn't matter you will only receive a small column. Why, people are no longer interested in the union factor, appears like many of the rank and file have fallen into the category of the disinterested.

As for music, downloading - they will never get a handle on that. They can shut one down and the others have the technology to open one up in a matter of hours. There are internet sites where musicians are quite willing to say - hear my songs, I'll give you a sample, if you like it, buy my cd.

Sites like here on mfd are beneficial as to where the bending point will be. Anyone can join in any discussion, you can learn, and receive views of others - or if your are in the racket of the executive, you do not post, you view your vast territory - ah heck, you probably wave your hand over your computer and say, thy members, thy members... oh, alas, some of us don't even work, some of us work at home, some at non union jobs. The common ground is democracy.

If you stop and think - just a moment -how great mfd actually is!

Keep up the good work, mfd

Pardon - I may have raved off topic.

  • posted by <Horace Manneater>
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 12:50pm

Reprehensible as the UTD scandal is, this MFD article does nothing but regurgitate right-wing anti-union, anti-worker propaganda that has little relation to reality. That the "MFD Online Contributors" have fallen for the ruse is a shame.

First off there is the citation of Michelle Malkin, the arch-conservative columnist for the Jewish World Review. Malkin takes the "liberal media" and the New York Times to task for not covering the Florida union scandal the way she would have. However, a google search reveals extensive coverage, particularly and understandably in the Miami Herald, and additionally in the Washington Post. The New York Times also covered the scandal when it published an Associated Press article. That Ms. Malkin would rather that the Florida story appear in huge type on the front page of the *New York* Times is apparent, but not at all reasonable. It is a Florida story, and a relatively tiny amount of money is involved compared to corporate scandals like Enron, which had world-wide implications.

Furthermore, a search of the New York Times conservative tabloid rival, The New York Post, turns up no hits at all on the phrase "Pat Tornillo".

The lack of media coverage of union scandals, if there is a lack, can reasonably be explained by their relatively small scale, which tends to make them local issues, and by the overall marginalization of unions as their membership declines. Rather than a liberal conspiracy, these events are just too small time to show up on the national media radar, and when they're big enough, they actually do.

Secondly, the "hero" of this piece, the Teachers Rights Advocacy Coalition, has been accused of receiving funding from conservative anti-union organizations. A look at the links page of its web site reveals links to the virulently anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, the nuttily anti-union National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse ("Teachers are teaching with invisible burqas and children have the ability to see those "invisible" burqas just like dogs can hear those unheard sounds." - NAPTA web site), and most significantly the "Association of American Educators", a teachers association whose agenda is to take away teachers' right to strike and promote religious instruction in public classrooms, as is evidenced by board member Eric Brueher's web site.

None of these "teachers rights" organizations support collective bargaining for teachers. They oppose the right to strike or enage in work stoppages. They all receive funding or moral support from organizations that seek to destroy unions and free public education in the United States.

And you fell for it.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 1:30pm

Well Horace, I'm not sure that MFD has fallen for anything. What a lot of us are interested in is the content, the ideas and opinions expressed in commentaries and not the affiliations of the writers. I for one could care a whole lot less what big self-serving organization anyone works for or writes for. I'm interested in the ideas they're expressing. What you're asking us to do is to fall for exactly that same thing: The old mainstream top-down union song and dance: If you're not with us, you're against us. Don't say anything contrary to the wisdom of our great leaders or you must be some kind of right wing basket case. Same concept, different big self-serving organization.

What do you think about the coverage of workers' issues by the mainstream media? That's what this article is about and what it seeks to prompt discussion about.

  • posted by <Horace Manneater>
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 2:32pm

Right. Anyone who criticizes MFD is aligned with mainstream unionism. If you're not with us, you're against us. Same old tap dance.

While it may be convenient for you to assert that a writer's affiliations and the content of their writing bear no relation to each other, you are plainly wrong. Context is everything. The way to fight bloated teachers unions is not by promoting the spokesmen and agendas of the christian right and the anti-union right, unless you support their goals; the way to fight is by promoting union democracy and supporting and publicizing organizations that do not seek to roll back working conditions to 19th century and public education to the 18th century.

There is no liberal bias in the coverage of labor issues by *newspapers*. Small local newspapers tend to lack depth of coverage (e.g., in reporting on a decert election, there won't be an explanation of what a decert is) due to limited resources and the lack of labor law knowledge of the staff. What you get is not bias, but plain vanilla reporting. Larger newspapers have better coverage, but newspapers are businesses, dependent on advertising, and if there is any bias, it's more likely to be in the employer's favor, although not always. Reporters tend to be more liberal than editors or publishers, and sometimes they slip something through.

Unrepsonsive or corrupt unions need to be attacked, but not by promoting right-wing fantasies of a liberal press. The liberal press in the United States is quite small, consisting of periodicals like The Nation, Harpers Magazine and the Atlantic Monthly: *they* have a liberal bias and are quite proud of it.

  • posted by yankeebythewater
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 3:56pm

Manneater...

Your bull is thin. Your best spread should be shared with some pigs eating at the trough.

I, like many others here, have had burnt toast with hard butter.

Tap dance, sure -follow my steps..I can do a great highland fling, just as you fling, we will all fling back, and like you, enjoy it.

  • posted by <Horace Manneater>
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 5:01pm

Non-substantive response.

But the idea that the publishers of the New York Times are secret union supporters is nonsense.

The New York Times is a reportorial sweatshop. A significant portion of its headquarters staff are unpaid interns or low-paid independent contractors.

A large number of its reporters - "stringers", really - are independent contractors who work long hours, get paid by the word, have no benefits, accrue no vacation, and get none of the perks of permanent employment. What they do get occasionally, is a byline in the New York Times, and this exploitative arrangement is enough to keep them going, sometimes for years.

Hardly a union-friendly employer.

  • posted by unionnow
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 6:07pm

Our local newspaper, owned by Knight Ridder, is totally and completely editorially opposed to the worker, workers rights and their fellow travelers, the unions. The love to run large articles bashing what little gains we make in our struggles while constantly advocating for business to do just about anything they want. They love to call that the 'free market'.

We have been reduced to creating non-profit orgs to advocate for our issues because once the U word comes up the press very effectively runs us into the ground. In times past we have had some good stories published on our behalf only to see the reporter let go soon thereafter.

As far as having right or left wing sources, I think we need to be a little less partisan in our thinking and methods. I listen and think about a wide rage of sources from the far right and the far left daily. Some of my friends make fun of me for doing this including spreading it around town that I am a closet righty.

Only a fool will immerse themselves into one side of an issue. Both sides must be considered for thoughtful evaluation of any issues. One exception of that would be boorish argumentative closed-minded sources only intent on political victory.

Sometimes the right gets it right and the left gets it wrong. They only thing worse than a right wing boorish advocate is a left wing boorish advocate.

  • posted by robbie_dee
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 7:06pm

I'm with both Horace and UN on this one.

The MFD story was a cut-and-paste job from some some rather nasty right-wing columnists with their own axe to grind against both the media and the Teachers' unions.

Unfortunately, the columnists have an agenda very different, and largely opposed to, what the MFD is supposed to stand for. In your particular piece, you didn't do a very good job of distinguishing your point from theirs. Instead you wound up sounding like dittoheads. Horace called you on it.

As a general rule, though, I think you can learn a lot by reading material written by people ideologically opposed to you. Like UN, I try to read a good mix of right-wing, moderate, and left-wing news.

I find that the right sometimes covers union and left-wing issues better than more moderate sources, because the right-wing actually sees unions and the left as a threat, rather than simply irrelevant. You have to be prepared to sift through the bias to get to the meat you are looking for though. Sometimes I read right-wing source articles "backwards" i.e. I start at the middle of the article or towards the end, and I read the beginning of the article last. This is because the right-wingers often bury the facts several lines in, after taking the first few lines to slant the article their way. Try it sometime.

The Nation, Harpers Magazine and the Atlantic Monthly are all good left-wing publications and I read them a lot. They do sometimes slip into "cheerleading" mode for the left establishment, though, which can get grating. That's when I need a good healthy dose of Ann Coulter. It's refreshing, like a high colonic.

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 7:17pm

Good to have you here HM. It's always nice to see folks unafraid to make an argument that makes sense, even if it's wrong . There is a little tongue in cheek in that statement, because i too have struggled at times with the source of the reporting.

The one that always set me off the most was the National Right To Work Committees crap. They have piles of puke that can be used to attack organized labor. And of course, as you point out, the anti public education crowd is alive and well and spewing their venom.

Finding balance in reporting is a challenge, and IMHO, one of the reasons the internet is becoming more popular. Exchanging ideas and information is critical for workers to understand what is going on. It has helped me become more broad minded, and more willing and able to see the bigger picture.

I would hope you consider registering and becoming a contributing member on MFD. Your willingness to confront and engage is refreshing and i think good for all of us trying to become more knowledgeable and open minded. Welcome.

  • posted by siggy
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 7:19pm

Well said unionnow.

You know what? No matter which way you read it, the biggest threat to the *right* and to the *left* is the middle.

  • posted by <Michael Troy Moore>
  • Fri, Sep 19, 2003 7:40pm

Should I move to the RIGHT or the LEFT?
Middle is to boring!
Backwards in to move Backwards-no good!

FOWARD sound good but there are more directions than I have said here.

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