Picket signs with the CNN and MSNBC logos
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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On Labor Day, CNN and MSNBC should frame 2023 as a historic year for workers' unions

  • This Labor Day, unions’ achievements and ongoing strikes deserve significant coverage on CNN and MSNBC after years of coverage failing to meet labor’s historic momentum. With record numbers of workers on strike this year and multiple major union victories, this holiday weekend presents a perfect opportunity for cable news networks to correct their past mistakes.

  • As workers' rights take center stage nationwide, cable coverage of labor advancements is still lacking

    • A Media Matters analysis from Labor Day weekend 2022 found that CNN dedicated only 9 minutes of coverage to workers rights. On the heels of groundbreaking labor developments, MSNBC fared better, dedicating 24 minutes of coverage to labor unions. [Media Matters, 9/9/22]
    • Earlier this month, a study from Media Matters revealed that cable news gave unequal coverage to SAG-AFTRA strikes while barely covering 21 other labor disputes. Most segments featured or cited management, with many networks giving interviews to Hollywood celebrities speaking for SAG-AFTRA rather than rank-and-file members of the union. [Media Matters, 8/7/23]
    • Labor Day should act as a perfect opportunity for CNN and MSNBC to improve their coverage of workers' rights and highlight the impact labor unions have had in 2023. The holiday weekend is a direct result of direct action by workers and socialist leader Eugene Debs, who organized the 1894 Pullman Strike that eventually led to federal recognition of the first Monday of September as Labor Day. [PBS, 8/2/22]
  • Here are some pieces of recent union news that CNN and MSNBC could highlight on Labor Day:

    • Striking workers are winning the popularity contest over management when it comes to public opinion of ongoing labor disputes. A recent Gallup poll showed that 72% of people side with the Writers Guild of America strikers and 67% side with the Screen Actors Guild strikers over management. [Gallup, 8/30/23]
    • More than 320,000 workers have participated in at least 230 strikes in 2023. This beats 2022’s record of striking workers, with 224,000 engaged in 420 strikes over the course of the year. [CNBC, 8/27/23]
    • Union demands for higher wages and better working conditions have been realized in massive contract wins. UPS workers, who nearly went on strike, approved a five-year contract that dismantled an inequitable pay system and instituted new heat safety protections. Pilots at Delta Airlines and American Airlines have also secured big raises and improved benefits, while American Airlines flight attendants voted this week to authorize their union to strike next. [NBC News, 8/22/23; CNBC, 3/1/23; The New York Times, 8/21/23; CNN, 8/30/23]
    • The National Labor Relations Board announced a new rule that will dramatically impact management’s ability to illegally interfere with unionization. A recent NLRB decision outlined that if an “employer commits an unfair labor practice, such as illegally firing pro-union workers,” during a union election process, the company will be forced to recognize the union and go straight into bargaining. [The American Prospect, 3/28/23]
    • In one of the biggest resurgences of the union in years, 500 workers joined the United Farm Workers. After organizing workers across five farms in New York state, the UFW will grow its current membership by 8%. [The Guardian, 7/6/23]
    • Teaming up for the first time in more than six decades, the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild are both on strike after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed to meet the unions’ demands. This dual strike has brought the entertainment industry to a halt over media corporations’ insistence that striking workers accept a contract that doesn’t address workers’ needs. The Associated Press reports, “Union leaders say the streaming model that has taken over the industry in recent years has cheated actors of their share of income and funneled money to executives.” [The Associated Press, 7/14/23]
    • Over 150,000 United Auto Workers may go on strike in two weeks if workers’ demands, such as paid time off and wage tier elimination, are not met in the contract. UAW President Shawn Fain pointed out that while the top three auto manufacturers have made $21 billion in 2023 so far, culminating in millions for executives, wages for auto workers are disgracefully low. “Our message going into bargaining is clear: record profits mean record contracts,” Fain said. [Jacobin, 8/18/23]