ABC Reporter Portrays Union as Victim, Delphi as Villain

     ABC reporter Dean Reynolds promised A Closer Look at the woes of domestic auto parts maker Delphi, but instead zoomed in on a story portraying union workers as victims and corporate executives as villains. His December 27 World News Tonight story blamed Delphi, which filed for bankruptcy this year, for securing pay bonuses for company officials while driving the company into the wall. However, Reynolds failed to document how the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has been at the wheel as the companys bottom line has driven off a cliff.

     The story focused on a Delphi shipping clerk from Indiana who may lose his job or take a cut in pay after a round of layoffs. Reynolds didnt report the generous compensation Delphi workers receive as part of the UAW agreement. Instead of dropping an actual dollar figure, Reynolds aired a brief sound bite of Delphi CEO Robert Miller complaining about his companys labor costs being double or triple that of his competitors.

     A November 26 story by Jason Roberson in the Detroit Free Press reported that Delphi workers earn on average $76-an-hour in pay and benefits combined. With a 40-hour work week, thats $158,080-per-year. By contrast the median U.S. income in 2004 was $44,389.

     Roberson noted that in mid-November, Delphi announced it wanted to scale pay down to $35-an-hour ($72,800-per-year) for UAW workers. The pay cut request has since been withdrawn by Delphi.

     Voicing over footage of foreign auto plant workers, Reynolds said Americans were competing with workers drawing much lower wages in other places. Reynolds failed to mention many of these other places are factories located in the United States which command good wages and benefits. According to the June 22, 2005 New York Times, those areas include the South because many Southern states do not require workers to unionize.

     The Times article said actual salaries were only slightly lower in the foreign owned plants. However, when health care and other benefits were taken into account, union workers earned about $55 an hour, nearly 15 percent more than nonunion workers.

     When Delphi wasnt paying union workers to work, it was paying them to not work. An October 17 story by Bryce Hoffman in the Detroit News focused on a jobs bank which started in the 1980s as an auto industry concession to the UAW for allowing increased automation of plant operations.

     Delphi has 4,000 workers in the program, according to Hoffmans article. Delphis CEO Robert S. Miller told the Detroit News that the jobs bank cost his company $400 million-per-year. Automotive News reported on December 25 that UAW leaders are steadfastly refusing to agree to Delphis request to reform the so-called jobs bank.

     While Reynolds ignored the $400 million spent on 4,000 non-working union members, he lamented that Delphi worked out a bonus payment plan costing potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to retain top executives before capping off his piece by showing his featured shipping clerk, a UAW member, worried about losing his house.

     The Business & Media Institute has previously documented how the media have presented a one-sided coverage of labor union scuffles with corporate management.