WASHINGTON -- Plenty of labor activists were dismayed by the announcement this week that primetime MSNBC host Ed Schultz was destined for a less desirable weekend slot. After all, Schultz has been a strong ally of the labor movement, using his show to highlight issues facing working-class people, and union members in particular, far more than your average cable news program.
On Thursday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee created an online thank-you card to Schultz that, as of Friday afternoon, had gathered more than 47,000 signatures: "When unions were attacked in Wisconsin and Ohio, Ed was there. When Whirlpool fired workers in Iowa, Ed was there. When Bain Capital was moving jobs overseas from Illinois, Ed was there."
Similarly, an activist launched a petition on the website for progressive Credo Action to "keep Ed Schultz in a prime weekday T.V. time slot," calling the host "one of few in the media who supports working class people." And Leo Gerard, head of the United Steelworkers union, told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple that the Schultz move was a "big loss" for working people.
But if Schultz fans think working-class issues will disappear from the 8:00 p.m. time slot, at least one credible MSNBC source says they shouldn't fret: Schultz' replacement. Chris Hayes, who will be making the switch from his weekend morning show "Up With Chris Hayes," told HuffPost that he's committed to covering the same labor issues that Schultz did.
"I totally hear where they're coming from," Hayes said in an email. "What Ed did on his show, in putting the issues facing working people front and center night in and night out was genuinely revolutionary in the medium. He also put voices of working people -- from organized labor and unorganized labor -- on his show in a way no one has before.
"We're absolutely committed to doing the same," he said.
Indeed, Hayes has already amassed a track record of tackling complicated labor issues through thoughtful roundtable discussions. A recent "Up" episode, for example, took a close look at jobs in the booming restaurant industry, where the "tipped" minimum wage hasn't been raised in two decades and many workers struggle to make ends meet.
In an episode that aired back in November, when strikes at Walmart stores become a hot news topic ahead of Black Friday, Hayes gave airtime not only to a store employee but to a warehouse worker who toils at the bottom of the megaretailer's contract supply chain.
"I think you'll see if you look at UP, we've focused a lot on labor (and the forces trying to keep labor down) and have featured everything from Wal Mart workers, to on-the-ground organizers, to union presidents to restaurant workers sitting at the table sharing their experience and expertise," Hayes said.
Of course, one thing that will inevitably change with his new show is the format. In his primetime, condensed time slot, Hayes won't have as much room to facilitate the sort of in-depth discussions featured on his two-hour morning program. He'll be far more hemmed in by the news of the day and breaking stories, as well. But whatever shape the program takes, Hayes assures it will include the voices of everyday workers.
"I got my start in lefty journalism as a labor reporter at In These Times, and it's in my blood," he said.
Correction: This article originally stated that Credo Action launched the petition. In fact, an activist launched it on the Credo site.