Coal miners are on strike in Alabama for the first time in four decades, but cable news is silent
Union mine workers in Alabama are taking part in a historic strike, the first of its kind in four decades, accusing Warrior Met Coal of first exploiting its workers and now inspiring violence against them on the picket line. Freelance journalists are on the ground and local news has been covering the story from the start -- yet more than three months into the strike, the historic labor action has not received so much as a single mention from CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, according to a new analysis from Media Matters.
The origins of the strike lie in the 2016 takeover of a failing coal company by newcomer Warrior Met, leading to profits for the buyer alongside lower pay and loss of benefits for the workers. The miners in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, who were caught up in the acquisition faced dramatic pay cuts and reportedly weaker safety measures for what is often ranked one of the nation’s most dangerous professions, leading to multiple charges of unfair labor practices levied against Warrior Met.
The miners said they were promised wages would increase with profits, so when management this year failed to restore pay and benefits during contract renegotiations with the workers, the United Mine Workers of America called a strike.
The first major strike of coal miners in Alabama in four decades received coverage from local media and independent journalists who were reporting on the strike within the first few weeks, but CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have declined to cover the story.
In fact, a study by Media Matters found that between the start of the strike on March 31 and July 13, the three largest cable news networks failed to make even one mention of the miners in Alabama.
The profile of the strike would grow alongside escalating tension between the company and the striking workers, reaching a zenith when miners were arrested during a protest in May, but that did nothing to change the networks’ pattern of disregard.
The strike gained coverage from larger print publications like The Guardian and The Nation in June, but even after protesters faced arrest and targeted acts of violence, cable news still did not deem it newsworthy. (For comparison: Fox News, an outlet that has consistently claimed it cares about coal jobs, devoted 1 hour and 18 minutes over just five days that month to covering a school district in New Jersey that changed references to holidays on its academic calendar to simply “days off.”) When the miners took their efforts to New York City to protest the hedge funds that backed Warrior Met -- including its largest stakeholder, BlackRock -- the biggest names in news remained silent.
On July 10, the strike passed its 100-day mark. Two days earlier, the wife of a striking miner was struck by a vehicle, and the union claims the violence was perpetrated by individuals working for the company. Now, amid the continuing silence of cable news, hedge funds are increasing their investment in Warrior Met.
The miners have announced they will return to New York City to picket Warrior Met’s investors again on July 28. As the fate of the workers’ struggle for fair pay remains unsettled and their strike nears its four-month anniversary, the networks owe it to their audience to provide coverage of this historic union action.
Methodology: Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for either of the terms “Alabama” or “Warrior Met Coal” within close proximity of any of the terms “coal,” “miner,” “strike,” “labor,” or “worker” from March 31, 2021, the date the strike was first announced, through July 13, 2021.