The Journal's Anti-Labor Narrative

September 7th, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

I promised to consider the Albuquerque Journal’s major narratives. On the heels of Labor Day, the newspaper’s eternal crusade against organized labor seems an appropriate choice.

That position seems sharper recently, as management downplays the thinking of traditional conservatives like Sen. Domenici in favor of the laissez-faire religion preached at the Rio Grande Foundation, CATO and other so-called think tanks.

So today’s self-imposed journalistic task is tracing the anti-labor narrative through the Journal’s Op Eds and news stories over the just-past holiday.

I begin with a tale of two essays, only one of which the newspaper published.

That was a Labor Day Op Ed (A7) from the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business that:

• Lamented how Detroit’s auto industry and its jobs were preserved.

• Opined, “its not time to junk Labor Day” but (given organized labor’s decline) let’s whoop it up for small business and the self-employed.

• Plumped for lifting the burden of taxes – capital gains, notably – and regulation.

In the essay Journal editors chose not to print, E.J. Dionne Jr. disagreed (sardonically) about Labor Day; he said it may be quitting time.

After all, Dionne explained Sept. 4, “Our culture has given up on honoring workers as the real creators of wealth and their honest toil — the phrase itself seems antique — as worthy of genuine respect.”

Then, fully aware of how contemporary ears will hear it, he proffered this:

“Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

The leftist author was Abraham Lincoln, 1861.

As a sign of labor’s decline in stature, Dionne pointed out, “ We tax the fruits of labor more vigorously than we tax the gains from capital…”

For greater perspective on the Journal narrative, though, let’s make this a tale of three pieces.

This third story – from the McClatchy Newspapers wire Sept. 1 – also failed to make the Journal.

You decide if the content explains why.

In an “enterprise” piece, the reporter, one Kevin G. Hall, tried to verify that “excessive regulation and fear of higher taxes” discourage hiring, as some politicians and business groups claim.

(Hmm, doubting common assertions. Checking them out. Sounds suspiciously like journalism.)

“However, little evidence of that emerged,” wrote Hall, “when McClatchy canvassed a random sample of small business owners across the nation.”

Some of the owners were fazed by the cost of insurance, others the hassle in getting loans and still others, a lack of customers. They cited neither regulations nor taxes.

And the Journal didn’t run it.

In fairness, however, Journal editors did publish (alongside the NFIB column) a state union spokesman’s view (endorsed by three other union representatives) that the current administration is assaulting its employees.

The author said Management Associates, a firm contracted by the state to handle bargaining, opened talks with the unions by demanding, “Remove everything in your contracts.”

This reminded me that Dionne (in his unpublished Op Ed) regretted the withering of journalism’s old labor beat. The Journal might serve the public, anyway, by assigning any professional reporter to cover the negotiations, question those union assertions and probe Management Associates.

Of course, I’ll bet it won’t happen. What if the reporter’s findings contradict the narrative, as in the McClatchy episode?

Following the Journal narrative into Labor Day plus One, we find Harold Meyerson’s complex, meandering Op Ed essay contrasting Henry Ford’s creation of “a decently paid working class” with Steve Jobs’ jobs legacy – Apple employs no production workers in the U.S.

Below Meyerson’s column, a rightist historian of economics, Amity Schlaes, weighs in against “compulsory unionism.”

So how does this add up? I figure the Journal maintained its anti-organized labor narrative, mostly by way of what it didn’t publish, and thereby disserved journalism and readers.

But you will judge for yourself.

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  • Roland

    Good points, Arthur. It certainly adds an extra dimension to our understanding of editorial bias to probe for the stories behind the story, exploring columns that the Journal could have printed, but didn’t. Newspapers like the ABQ Journal serve as foot-soldiers for Republican leaders such as governors Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Suzanna Martinez. The Republican leaders have only brief media exposure each day, so their task is to spout the sound-bytes and they leave it up to the Republican mouth-piece newspapers to provide the broader context. Scott Walker blames unions for Wisconsin’s budget problems, and the Journal obligingly prints columns that advocate union-busting. Assuming that the Republicans will field Rick Perry as their candidate, look for the Journal to be an echo-chamber for “the Texas economic miracle.” The voters are exposed to a well-oiled propaganda machine. Such is the sad state of American democracy.

  • Leslie PIper

    Fortunately the First Amendment to the Constitution allows (!) us talking livestock to assemble and even talk about work conditions if we choose. It’s likely we will do that, because the more the over-reaching thugs at the top of the
    Repub/T-Party conspiracy lie and steal, the smarter and more desperate we get. There were vets marching on DC before a real American aristocrat, Roosevelt, heard and cut our kind some slack. It may take that, but currently our chattering and political classes seem impervious to the calls of shared citizenship. Nevertheless, the “Arab Spring” will get here, or perhaps even a French Revolution! Not many of us have actually seen a guillotine, but given how many cruel criminals
    currently prowl Wall and ‘K’ streets, there will be enough practice to figure out how to work them…

  • Cheryl Everett

    I meant to write a “letter” to the Journal editor about the mean-spirited anti-union op-ed masquerading as “rah-rah” for small business. Whenever anyone starts an anti-union rant with me, I just tell them that, when my Dad succeeded in unionizing the teachers in our public school district, my family’s dinner fare sky-rocketed from a ring of bologna shared by five to a real hamburger for everyone!

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