Fox Uses Hostess And Wal-Mart Disputes To Revive Its Campaign Against Unions

››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

Fox attacked unions over the liquidation of Hostess Brands after negotiations with its bakers union failed, but Fox ignored the fact that the company faced myriad financial problems. Similarly, Fox attacked Wal-Mart employees for striking, but failed to acknowledge the workers' concerns. Fox has run a long-standing campaign against unions.

Hostess Announces It Will Proceed With Plans To Liquidate

After Second Round Of Mediation, Hostess Announces It Will Proceed With Plans To Liquidate. The New York Times blog DealBook reported that Hostess Brands announced plans to liquidate following a failure to reach a deal with its bakers union. In a November 19 post, DealBook noted that the company had filed for Chapter 11 in January, saying "it was unable to pay its debts and needed to make deep cuts in labor costs to survive." On November 19, the post continued, Hostess and the union agreed to mediation "in a last-ditch effort to avoid winding down Hostess." In a November 20 post, DealBook reported that Hostess and the bakery workers union "had failed to reach a new labor agreement" and that Hostess "would proceed with plans to liquidate." [DealBook, The New York Times, 11/19/12, 11/20/12]

Fox Blames Bakers Union For Hostess Bankruptcy

Stuart Varney: "The Union Was Standing In The Way Of Efficiency And Profitability." On Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed Hostess "totally shut down" because the union "rejected these givebacks. The company wanted givebacks, a lower pension, lower medical payments, etc., etc. They wanted all of that. The union said no, you can't have that. The union -- the company totally shut down." He concluded, "Look, you cannot have all these generous pension and health benefits, you can't have that, if your company is not run efficiently and profitably. And the union was standing in the way of efficiency and profitability." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/19/12]

Fox Business' Adam Shapiro: It Was "The Bakers Union ... That Essentially Would Not Compromise." Martha MacCallum, co-host of Fox News' America's Newsroom, introduced a segment on the Hostess bankruptcy by saying the company is "blaming a workers' strike for crippling their ability to make and deliver their products." Her guest, Fox Business' Adam Shapiro, said it was "the bakers union" that "essentially would not compromise." MacCallum asked, "It all came down to the bakers. ... They're the ones who blew the deal?" Shapiro responded, "Pretty much." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 11/16/12]

Bill Hemmer: "A Labor Dispute" Put "18,000 Jobs On The Line." Fox's America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer blamed the coming job losses at Hostess on "a labor dispute," suggesting that the union had put "18,000 jobs on the line." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 11/16/12]

But Fox Ignored Hostess' Array Of Long-Standing Problems

Hostess Filed For Its First Bankruptcy In 2004. In March, Reuters reported that Hostess "filed for its first bankruptcy in 2004, citing declining sales, high food costs, excess capacity and worker benefit expenses." [Reuters, 3/6/12]

Hostess' First Bankruptcy Was Expensive And Did Not Improve The Company's Prospects. Reuters reported that after Hostess filed for its first bankruptcy in 2004, "it did not deal with its debt":

It tackled some issues -- closing bakeries and simplifying some union contracts -- but it did not deal with its debt. It went into the first bankruptcy with $648.5 million in debt, and came out with more than $800 million, according to court documents. [Reuters, 3/6/12]

Hostess Faced Other Challenges Beyond Labor Costs. Forbes reported in July that when CEO Greg Rayburn took over Hostess in March 2012, he became the sixth CEO of the company in a decade. The Washington Post reported in January that Hostess "lost $250 million in the less than three years since it emerged from its previous bankruptcy. That means it would have lost money without any pension costs at all." [Media Matters, 11/16/12]

For more information on Hostess' financial troubles, see here.

Wal-Mart Employees Plan Protests, Strikes Leading Up To Black Friday

Bloomberg Businessweek: Wal-Mart Employees "Protesting Low Wages, Spiking Health Care Premiums, And Alleged Retaliation From Management." Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Wal-Mart workers began the week before Thanksgiving "a wave of protests and strikes leading up to next week's Black Friday" to protest "low wages, spiking health care premiums, and alleged retaliation from management." The article continued:

In 2013, Wal-Mart plans to scale back its contributions to workers' health-care premiums, which are expected to rise between 8 percent and 36 percent. Many employees will forgo coverage, Reuters reports.

Sara Gilbert, a manager who was striking in Seattle, called in on her cell phone: "I work full-time for one of the richest companies in the world, and my kids get state health insurance and are on food stamps," she said.

Along with Target (TGT) and Sears (SHLD), Wal-Mart has plans to open retail stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Employees said they weren't given a choice as to whether they would work on Thanksgiving and were told to do so with little warning. "They don't care about family," said Charlene Fletcher, a Wal-Mart associate in Duarte, Calif. She said she is expected to report for work at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The workers said that when they complain about scheduling and other problems, management cuts their hours or fires people. [Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/16/12]

Fox Responds To Wal-Mart Strikes By Attacking Unions

Michelle Malkin: "These Big Labor Thugs Do Not Have Worker's Interests At Heart." On Fox News' Your World, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin claimed that the Wal-Mart protests are "never really about workers' welfare, or ensuring that people have good quote-unquote 'living wages.' It is to make these corporations bend and bow and capitulate at their most vulnerable moments." She later added that "these Big Labor thugs do not have worker's interests at heart" and that millions of out-of-work people "would love to work on Thanksgiving for Wal-Mart if they had a chance." [Fox News, Your World, 11/20/12]

Tucker Carlson: "Have You Ever Worked In A Union Shop That Didn't Abet Laziness And Inefficiency?" On Fox News' Hannity, guest host Tucker Carlson implied Wal-Mart employees were wrong to protest "in the middle of a recession, with retailers suffering across this country," and later asked, "Have you ever worked in a union shop that didn't abet laziness and inefficiency? Has a union ever come in to a company and made it more efficient? Seriously? No." [Fox News, Hannity, 11/20/12]

But Fox Failed To Acknowledge Workers' Complaints, Including Low Wages And Expensive Health Care

Bloomberg: "The Protesters Are Demanding More-Predictable Schedules, Less-Expensive Health-Care Plans And Minimum Hourly Pay Of $13." A Bloomberg article about the Wal-Mart strikes noted, "The protesters are demanding more-predictable schedules, less-expensive health-care plans and minimum hourly pay of $13 with the option of working full-time. The average hourly full-time wage at Wal-Mart is $12.57, Kory Lundberg, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail." [Bloomberg, 11/19/12]

CBS: Wal-Mart Workers' Insurance Premiums Are Scheduled To "Jump By As Much As 36 Percent, As Walmart Scales Back Its Contribution." A CBS News article noted, "The protesters want minimum hourly pay raised to $13, more full-time work and less-costly health care. Next year, their insurance premiums will jump by as much as 36 percent, as Walmart scales back its contribution." [CBSNews.com, 11/19/12]

CNNMoney: Workers Are Asking Wal-Mart "To End What They Call Retaliation Against Speaking Out For Better Pay, Fair Schedules And Affordable Health Care." A CNNMoney article about why Wal-Mart workers are striking on Black Friday reported, "The union-backed group OUR Walmart expects thousands of workers to participate in the protest planned this week. The employees will ask the country's largest employer to end what they call retaliation against speaking out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care. Such retaliation can include shuffling around their shifts, cutting hours and moving them around departments." [CNNMoney, 11/20/12]

Huffington Post: Wal-Mart Pay Structure "Makes It Difficult For Most To Rise Much Beyond Poverty-Level Wages." In an article about the Wal-Mart strikes, the Huffington Post posted Wal-Mart's official compensation policy and noted that the document shows that "[l]ow-level workers typically start near minimum wage, and have the potential to earn raises of 20 to 40 cents an hour through incremental promotions. Flawless performance merits a 60 cent raise per year under the policy, regardless of how much time an employee has worked for the company. ... As a result, a 'solid performer' who starts at Walmart as a cart pusher making $8 an hour and receives one promotion, about the average rate, can expect to make $10.60 after working at the company for 6 years." [Huffington Post, 11/16/12]

For more on right-wing media dismissing or ignoring Wal-Mart workers' complaints, see here and here.

Fox Has A Long History Of Attacking Unions

Fox's Gretchen Carlson Wonders: "Are Union Teachers Brainwashing Kids?" Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson teased a segment by saying, "Are union teachers brainwashing kids with lessons in collective bargaining? Well, coming up, the man who says he has proof Big Labor is disguising liberal propaganda as homework." [Fox News, Fox & Friends12/5/11, via Media Matters]

Carlson Suggested American Airlines Seats Came Loose As A Result of Tampering By Union Workers. On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson baselessly suggested that American Airlines seats came loose on planes as a result of tampering by union workers. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/2/12, via Media Matters]

John Stossel: Non-Union Fox Employees "Seem Happier," While Union Members Are "Grouchy At Work." Fox Business host John Stossel asserted that unions "improve the standard of life for union leaders, but most make it worse for everyone else," and that unions "undermine character by crushing individualism." Stossel added that the non-union studio crew at Fox News "seem happier because they can help out, they make suggestions, they're part of a life," while union members are "grouchy at work." [Fox Business, Stossel12/1/11, via Media Matters]

Fox Business' Dennis Kneale: "My Short Editorial: Unions Bad, Business Good." Fox Business senior correspondent Dennis Kneale said, "I'll just sum up by saying my short editorial: Unions bad, business good." [Fox Business, Follow the Money8/12/11, via Media Matters]

Peter Johnson Jr.: "We Understand The Value Of Unions," But They're "Begin[ning] To Destroy A Country." Fox News contributor Peter Johnson Jr. said: "We understand the value of unions. They've done some great things over time. But when they begin to destroy a country ... we're staggered by the numbers. We can't afford what they're asking for." Johnson then advised unions to "pull back a little bit, let the others get. Let us all live. It's not all about unions. It's about all of us." [Fox News, Hannity6/20/11, via Media Matters]

Special Report Segment On Unions Featured Only Union Foes, No Supporters. A segment by correspondent Jim Angle on Fox News' Special Report on Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the controversy over his plan to heavily restrict the bargaining rights of unionized state employees featured clips of Walker and union critic James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation, but no union supporters were quoted. [Fox News, Special Report2/28/11, via Media Matters]

Fox Asks If Teaching Labor History Is "Pro-Union Propaganda." Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson said it "may startle you" to know that in Wisconsin, teachers are required to teach the history of the labor movement. On-screen text during the segment read, "Pro-Union Propaganda?" [Fox News, Fox & Friends2/25/11, via Media Matters]

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