This is unusual. Usually, when there is any corporate media coverage of unions, they are portrayed as corrupt or unreasonable (see FAIR’s study). They’re treated with contempt by corporate journalists. In all the discussion of a potential bailout of the “Big Three” automakers, for example, union voices have been ignored, and worse, the United Auto Workers have been maligned as overpaid burdens on the companies – burdens, according to much of the elite chattering class, that must be shed or downsized if the industry is to be saved.
Bus drivers here in Austin went on strike last month to demand the raise and benefits they were promised. The strike was roundly condemned by a chorus of editorials and slanted pieces in the local media, forcing the union to negotiate a deal with Capital Metro that fell well short of meeting their original demands. The head of the union said that Metro engaged in dirty union-busting tactics to break up the strike, but the media never investigated the allegations.
So the copious and overwhelmingly positive coverage of United Electrical Workers 110 four-day old occupation of a shut-down factory in Chicago is, to say the least, stunning.
I’m studying for finals so I don’t have time to do a proper analysis, but my understanding so far is that a convergence of factors are helping the union defy the usual corporate media-blackout/demonization:
- Widespread popular resentment against banks,
- support from certain Chicago politicians, from Rep. Luis Gutierrez up to the President-Elect,
- a clear-cut narrative of humble and determined workers with no other choice but to protest for their wages due under law,
- the tried-and-true but fresh tactic of occupying the factory,
- support from a well-established network of Chicago labor and radical activists
While the corporate media get some props for actually doing their job on this story, the two best pieces of media on the factory occupation I’ve seen so far come, unsurprisingly, from alternative media. Urban Guerilla, an anarchist blogger in Chicago, posted a must-read look at the roots of the UE 110 in Chicago and a warning that the media honeymoon won’t necessarily last or extend to similar actions. And Labor Radio has a great interview up with UE organizer Leah Fried. Check that stuff out.
UE 110 needs support to continue their occupation! Send donations to UE Local 110 at 37 S. Ashland Chicago, Illinois 60607. See Chicago Indymedia and Chi-Town Daily News for the most up-to-date coverage of the workers’ struggle.