Last week security guards working at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California went on strike to protest illegal anti-union activities on the part of their employer, Inter-Con Security. Instead of hiring security guards directly in California, or using a union-friendly security contractor, Kaiser contracts with Inter-Con. The strike lasted three days.
A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What's up with that?
Why does the media barely cover labor issues?
Of course, when I write "the media" here I mean the newspapers, TV and radio that we usually call the "mainstream" media and lots of us call the "corporate" media. This is where most people get the news and information that forms the basis of their opinions and understanding about what is happening -- and why it is happening. And therefore for most people the information presented by this mainstream or corporate media necessarily forms the basis of their voting decisions, their opinion poll survey answers, and their overall acceptance of and consent for actions conducted in their name by government and other institutions of society.
When things are repeatedly reported in "the media" as problems, most people begin to become concerned and perceive that these "problems" need to be somehow "solved." We see cycles of this development of public concern. In recent years, for example, the media has done a great deal of reporting on the problem if children being kidnapped. And there is a great deal of concern about this among parents -- to the point that societal patterns are changing and children rarely are allowed out of the house unaccompanied. Fewer and fewer children walk to school, go to parks alone, etc.
In reality child kidnappings are extremely rare, which makes this a case study of the power of the major media to sway the behavior of the entire country. Over the years similar media-driven concerns about drugs, shark attacks and satanic cults have created waves of national hysteria.
If actual threats held sway, car accidents, guns, and other real threats would receive much, much more public attention and concern.
The other side of this ability to drive public attention is the power to hide real problems. The national debt is approaching ten trillion dollars, and interest on that debt is approaching half a trillion dollars per year, but is rarely mentioned as a concern. The military budget is greater than the military spending of all other countries in the world combined, much, much higher than when we faced down the Soviet Union, while a lot of people are making a whole lot of money from it with little public scrutiny. (This is not even counting Iraq/Afghanistan spending.) But this is never brought up.
And then there is the problem that labor unions are trying to address. This is the domination of our government by big-business interests and the accompanying concentration of wealth into the hands of a very few people at the expense of the rest of us. Workers like the Inter-Con security guards who are trying to organize to demand even minimal pay and benefits are absolutely invisible in today's mainstream/corporate media. The illegal tactics being used -- with the assistance of the Bush administration -- are not covered by today's mainstream/corporate media. But what else would you expect, as the media becomes further and further concentrated into the hands of a few very, very large corporations? Do you think for a minute that a large corporation would allow any kind of pro-labor stories to be carried on news media that it owns?
You hear that the reason for this is that "labor is declining." Well there are a lot more members of unions in this country than there are Fellows at neo-con think tanks, but you sure do hear from them a lot in the mainstream/corporate media. There are a lot more members of labor unions than there are members of the far-right Christian Coalition, but you sure hear a lot about their concerns the corporate media. And there are a lot more people who work for a living in jobs that pay too little, don't provide adequate health care or sick leave or other benefits and need to hear about the benefits of joining unions. That's for damn sure.
In fact any coverage of the plight of these security guards is necessarily pro-labor. When you hear about their living and working conditions you will understand what I mean. My next post will be about that, so stay tuned.
I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.