I was pointed to Political Scientist Michael Parenti’s 7 categories of generalizations about the way the news media create anti-union messaging by this article analyzing the media’s portrayal of the Philadelphia public transit strike. I got really steamed about a month ago listening to a local interview/call-in show about Boston charter schools and the Teacher Union that revolved very strongly along these lines:

  • Portrayal of labors struggles as senseless, avoidable contests created by unions’ unwillingness to negotiate in good faith,
  • Focus on Company wage “offers” omitting or underplaying reference to takebacks, and employee grievances, making the workers appear irrational, greedy and self-destructive
  • No coverage given to management salaries, bonuses or compensation and how they are inconsistent with concessions demanded by workers
  • Emphasis on the impact rather than the causes of strikes, laying the blame for the strike totally on the union and detailing the damage the strike does to the economy and public weal.
  • Failure to consider the harm caused to the workers’ interests if they were to give up the strike
  • Unwillingness or inability to cover stories of union solidarity and mutual support
  • Portrayal of the government (including the courts and police) as a neutral arbiter upholding the public interests when it is rather protecting corporate properties and bodyguarding strike-breakers.

To that, I would add “Failure to recognize Union benefits/protections as an aspiration for all workers, not spoils for the few”. The interview I was listening to (and what got me steamed) kept dismissively coming back to “Why should unions demand protections from arbitrary and capricious management? No one else expects that.” Which made me keep saying back “Well why the fuck not?”

Also, just in general, I get annoyed when the union workers aren’t placed within the context of the community as a whole? What does your child’s education mean in the context of a society where their work will have no value?

Update: A comment by Jen shared in Google Reader:

I would add, the idea that worker protections encourage mediocrity because people are removed from the “competitiveness” (i.e. fear) that easy firing gives. Job security doesn’t cause lack of motivation; bad management does.