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The Press wages Class War with “Right to Work” stories – Part II

September 6, 2010

Continuing our initial critique of the Grand Rapids Press series that began on Sunday, today we look at the articles the Press ran on September 6th, which is also ironically Labor Day in the US.

The Press ran an additional four stories today that are part of their Michigan 10.0 series that is for all practical purposes an endorsement of further attacking unions under the guise of a “Right to Work” policy for Michigan.

The lead article was by Business reporter Rick Haglund, which looked at where the two main candidates for Governor in Michigan stand on the “Right to Work” debate. Haglund says that neither Bernero (D) nor Snyder (R) support a “Right to Work” policy. However, Haglund couldn’t resist mentioning a recent statewide poll, which says, “51% of likely voters surveyed would favor a right-to-work law in Michigan.”

Haglund then cites a spokesperson for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce who believes, “The perception out there is that the entire state is unionized.” I’m not sure what this guy means by “out there” but there is no evidence that Michigan is perceived as entirely union. Haglund does provide some numbers to dispute such a claim and says that only 18.8% of Michigan’s workers are unionized, although he does not source where that figure comes from.

Haglund concludes the article by citing the new UAW President Bob King who says that the UAW is committed to working “cooperatively with automakers to insure their success.” This sentiment by King underscores the point we made yesterday that once union conceded systemic power to the capitalist class they were doomed. What will prevent the US-based automakers from continuing to undermine autoworkers if the union is unwilling to challenge their power like they did in the early days with wildcat strikes, a tactic which made the UAW a force to be reckoned with?

Right to Work Zones

A second major article on the front-page of Monday’s Press took a lengthy look at a proposal by those in the business class to push for a “zoned” approach to a “Right to Work” policy for Michigan. In this article Press reporter Julia Bauer looks at efforts by Michigan lawmakers and their business counter-parts to push for legislation that allow for “Right to Work” in counties or regions throughout the state instead of statewide policy.

Bauer mentions that this idea gained momentum in 2008 at a regional policy conference held in Grand Rapids and has since been proposed on several occasions in the State legislature. The article includes comments from two Michigan legislators, one for and one against a “Right to Work” policy.

However, the rest of the article is an absurdly biased look at the issue beyond where elected officials stand on the matter. The source the Press reporter cites in favor of a zoned “Right to Work” approach are the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, a GVSU Economics Professor, President of The Right Place Inc., the National Right to Work Foundation, a corporate consultant and a University of Michigan economist, which made six different sources. The number of sources that the Press reporter cited as critical of a zoned “Right to Work” approach – one. So much for the claim of balanced journalism.

Throwing a bone to labor voices

The remaining two articles were on pages 8 and 9 of the Press. One was a short article (page 9) that just dealt with some responses by readers to the “Right to Work” poll that the Press published on Saturday.

The other article  was written by long-time local labor historian Michael Johnston entitled, “Furniture City was a union city, a headline which the writer had no say in. The article is pretty decent in that it communicates important information about a rich labor history that Grand Rapids has, despite the brevity of the article.

I spoke with Michael Johnston today at the Labor Festival in Grand Rapids and he was told that they would only allow him 500 words to right about this history, a grossly inadequate amount of words to necessarily provide a more honest assessment of this rich labor history that Grand Rapids possesses. (Recently GRIID conducted an hour long video interview with Johnston, an interview we hope to have posted later this week.)

So, even though the Press allowed a short article by a local labor historian, it in no way absolves the paper of its overtly anti-union coverage for a second day in a row.

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