CNN Doesn't Mention Pro-Union Guest Was Union VP

     The AFL-CIO reports that only 12 percent of the work force belonged to unions last year and the hosts of “Your $$$$$” are not happy.

     Hosts Ali Velshi and Christine Romans told viewers why labor unions are good -- and business was not -- on the September 2, pre-Labor Day broadcast. To help, they brought in Beth Shulman, author of “Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Failed 30 Million Americans and Their Families.” Shulman was introduced as a “labor consultant” rather than the more accurate former vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

     Shulman reminded viewers that labor unions were “leaders in passing Social Security … paid family leave … leading the fight today for health care for all Americans.”

     If unions are so good for America, why is membership declining?

     “Intimidation,” says Shulman. Workers, “…don’t have that choice [to join a union]…joining a union in America has become a risk rather than a right…you shouldn’t have to be concerned that you are going to lose your job…or be harassed by your employer.”

     This fear factor is a continuing theme. Management is guilty of employee intimidation, CNN and Beth Shulman would have viewers believe. But the CNN/Shulman scare tactics ignore facts.

     The law and employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act are clear: “The NLRA forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes …”

     An employee cannot get fired for joining or forming a union. There are severe penalties if an employer does not obey the law. CNN was silent about enforcement.

     CNN viewers missed the other side of the debate because only one side, representing the unions, was represented. The management position and workers who don’t want to join organized labor were ignored in this show. 

     Host Christine Romans didn’t deliver balanced reporting and apparently didn’t read her own graphics. CNN displayed the correct “15.4 M workers belonged to unions last year, or 12 percent of the workforce” in a pull-out quote on the screen.

     However, Romans fudged the number in a question, “Many people say that the power of unions has declined considerably. I think they're less than 15 percent of the workers in America, right now, belong to unions. What do you say to people, that unions have become less relevant?”

     Romains’s number was misleading. The actual 12 percent of workers belonging to unions is not quite the same as “less than 15 percent.” Her ‘rounding up’ was some 25% off.

     It is also not clear that the “power of unions has declined considerably” as Romans suggested. Democrats crafted legislation, called “card check,” which would have ended secret ballots in union elections, and might have had the net effect of increasing union membership substantially. Although the legislation did not pass, organized labor was still able to exert pressure on Democrat lawmakers to attempt to move union interests forward.

     Business concerns weren’t really considered. Workers should join unions, said Shulman, because “[U]nions really stand up against corporations and their interests…[unions] are the path to the American Dream…they are the real voice for working families.”


Jack Yoest, a freelancer for the Business & Media Institute, is president of Management Training of DC, LLC and teaches business at the Northern Virginia Community College.