Fox News and the UAW strike

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Some Fox figures pretend the GOP is suddenly pro-union amid UAW strike

Fox hosts and guests are pushing the false narrative that the GOP has become the party of labor as the United Automobile Workers strike makes headlines, ignoring their own support of the Republican Party’s years of anti-union rhetoric. Meanwhile, Fox figures continue to criticize the union for striking in the first place.

  • The UAW is on strike, demanding higher pay and job protections

    • Nearly 1 in 10 autoworkers in the United States went on strike on September 15, with workers walking off plants of all three major Detroit automakers at once, a first for the UAW. Some of the major provisions the UAW is fighting for include a pay increase of around 40%, reinstating cost of living protections, ending a two-tier system that pays new employees less money for eight years, and job security as companies transition to build electric vehicles. [The Associated Press, 9/15/23; NPR, 9/20/23]
    • The 40% pay increase demand is meant to mirror the percentage increase in the pay of the companies’ CEOs over the last decade. Meanwhile worker pay has stagnated, resulting in average national autoworker take-home pay decreasing by almost 20% since 2008. [CNBC, 9/15/23]
  • Fox figures pretend the GOP has become the party of workers while Democrats have become anti-union

    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed Trump is “not necessarily anti-union” and the “Republican Party under Trump” would not necessarily side with mangament over unions. Kilmeade said: “Republicans normally would say, ‘OK, you know, I’m going to side with management over unions.’ That's not the new Republican Party under Trump. He’s not necessarily anti-union.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/18/23]
    • Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked a reporter if UAW workers feel abandoned by the Biden administration. Doocy wondered whether workers are feeling abandoned by Biden, asking if they’re saying “Hey, I voted for Joe Biden. Where's Joe Biden? I thought he was the union president. I thought he was going to be on our side. What's he doing?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/18/23]
    • Fox host Sean Hannity on his radio show claimed that American workers have always been Trump’s primary concern. According to Hannity, “You know, the best interest of American workers have always been his [Trump’s] number one concern. That's why I strongly urge the UAW to make the complete and total repeal of Biden's insane electric vehicle mandate their top nonnegotiable demand in any strike.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 9/18/23]
    • Fox & Friends Weekend host Carley Shimkus claimed the Republican Party has “flipped” and no longer serves the rich and instead implied that it has pro-union position. In response to a quote from a UAW member that claimed that Trump was a president “for the people,” Shimkus said, “Republicans used to be the party of the, you know, rich, elite, college-educated, and now that's completely flipped on its head.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 9/17/23]
    • Fox Business host Larry Kudlow claimed that while UAW leadership is “very far left,” the rank-and-file members are going to vote Republican and “love Trump.” According to Kudlow, “You know what you'll get, the UAW leadership, which is very far left, will wind up endorsing Biden — not on these issues; they’ll probably do it because of social woke issues. But the rank and file will vote Republican. And the rank and file love Trump.” [Fox News, America Reports, 9/15/23]
    • Fox host Pete Hegseth claimed that UAW workers “feel abandoned by” Democrats due to the Biden administration subsidizing EV production, while Trump has been a consistent supporter of unions. According to Hegseth, “I have seen Donald Trump make a pretty hard push to say hey, I was a guy who supported you with the unions and the everyday worker. Combine that with the lunacy of what the left is peddling on all social issues. What in common do these auto workers have with the modern Democrat Party?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/14/23]
  • The GOP and right-wing media have a history of supporting anti-union action and criticizing pro-union action from Democrats

    • Congressional Republicans attempted to shut down efforts by their staffers to unionize when they retook the House of Representatives in 2023. House Republicans adopted a new rule saying “unionizing regulations passed last year by Democrats would have ‘no force or effect’ in the 118th Congress,” according to Vox. [Vox, 1/12/23]
    • Every 2024 Republican presidential candidate has attacked unions or their leaders or taken anti-union positions. Trump has attempted to clarify that he is somehow against union leadership while supporting the workers for whom union leaders advocate. [The New York Times, 9/15/23]
    • In 2023, Republican-controlled Florida passed a law making it harder for union members to pay dues, while also making it easier for unions to be dissolved if not enough of their members pay dues. [WUSF News, 9/30/23]
    • In 2022, Republican congressmen introduced several anti-union bills (which did not pass) that aimed to kneecap unions. One would have prevented the National Labor Relations Board from prosecuting bad labor practices, another was a national right-to-work law, and another would have made it legal for companies to discriminate against employees with pro-union opinions. [Fast Company, 8/2/22]
    • In 2018, Fox contributor Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed union fair-share fees were equivalent to dues and could be used for political reasons. Fair-share fees are paid by non-union members in a unionized workplace for receiving union benefits and are less than dues. They also cannot be used to fund union political activities for full dues. Union membership is not compulsory, but fair-share fees are, in non-right-to-work states. According to Napolitano, dues and fair-share fees are the same. He claimed, “They force you to join a union. You don't want to join. They force you to pay dues. You don't want to pay dues. They use your dues for political causes you don't believe in.” [Media Matters, 2/27/18]
    • In 2012, Fox vehemently supported a Republican “right to work” law in Michigan which decreased the power of unions in the state, as workers who received union benefits but were not union members no longer had to pay fees. Fox aggressively defended the law, by falsely claiming it would benefit workers and the state economy and touting it as a “victory for capitalism.” The law was repealed in March 2023. [Media Matters, 12/11/12; The New Republic, 9/13/23]
    • In 2021, Fox host Dana Perino attacked a pro-union bill that Republicans objected to called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. The bill, which passed the House with Democratic support in 2021, would have overridden right-to-work laws that prevent unions from collecting fees from nonmembers, among other provisions. However, Perino framed the bill as overreach from the federal government, saying: “In the bill they have something called the PRO Act. If this passes basically what that would do is supersede any state that has right-to-work laws. So the federal government basically trying to come in and layer on on top of states whose citizens have made decisions.” [NPR, 3/9/21; Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/1/21]
    • In 2017, the Iowa Republican Party restricted unions representing public sector employees, including teachers, from bargaining over employee health insurance. [Reuters, 2/16/2017]
    • In 2011, then-Republican Gov. of Wisconsin Scott Walker championed Act 10, a law that limited public sector unions from bargaining about anything other than wages. The immediate aftermath saw union membership fall and wages among some state employees plummet 10% by 2014. [New York Times, 2/22/14]
  • Despite claiming that the GOP has become the party of unions, Fox figures are attacking the UAW strike

    • On his radio show, Fox host Mark Levin called the UAW strike a “shakedown” and said that UAW President Shawn Fain was engaging in “Marxist, class warfare stuff.” Levin said: “If you want to get what management’s getting, then get off the assembly line and do what it takes to become a manager.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 9/18/23]
    • Self-proclaimed “union guy” and Fox Business correspondent Charlie Gasparino said the UAW is pressing too hard. Gasparino said: “You know, we already face foreign competition, particularly in the EV space from Tesla and -- Tesla is not Ford, but it's nonunionized. So, you know, costs like these, like when you negotiate these types of deals and you give in to unions like this — it hurts me to say this because I am a union guy; my dad was an ironworker — it gets, when you press too hard, it gets pushed on to the consumer.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/14/23]
    • Fox host Neil Cavuto brought on car dealership owner Tom Maoli to talk about the strike. Maoli said that “what the UAW is asking for here, Neil, is unsustainable,” and that union demands like a 32-hour work week and 40% pay raise are impossible in a market as volatile as the car industry. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/15/23]
    • Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo said workers are “sticking their necks out too much” by asking for a significant pay raise, which she also inflated by about 10 percentage points. According to Bartiromo, “The automakers, the employees of the United Auto Workers, they may be sticking their necks out too much, asking for too much. I mean, come on, 56, 46, or 49% raise they want? But one of the issues they are talking about is the cost of living.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 9/21/23]
    • Fox host Sean Hannity gave credence to Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) claim that unions “own” the Democrats. In response to Scott’s criticism that part of a COVID-19 relief bill went to bailing out union pensions, Hannity said, “Because the unions are forcing the Democrats, you know.” Scott followed this up by claiming, “They own them.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/21/23]