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Free Market Project

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Updated 01/25/06
 


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Times Ignores Cost of Union Strike for Commuters, City
Focusing on workers’ ‘dignity,’ reporters ignore cost of strike, generous pay for workers.

By Ken Shepherd
Free Market Project
Dec. 19, 2005

     New York Times reporters Sewell Chan and Steven Greenhouse relayed complaints of “Little Dignity on the Job” in their December 19 story on the Big Apple’s pending transit workers strike. But on CNN’s “In the Money” December 17, host Jack Cafferty informed viewers that the threatened labor stoppage was against the law, while co-host Susan Lisovicz reported that pay for union transit workers is about double that of rookies on the city’s police force.


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Send this page to a friend! (click here)     “Regardless of whether a strike is called or a settlement is reached,” warned Chan and Greenhouse, the labor struggle over the transit contract has “highlighted one fact: Many workers feel they lack dignity and respect on the job.”

     But on CNN, business reporters were wondering where the dignity of and respect for the law factored into plans for the labor strike. Cafferty opened the December 17 show explaining that the city’s Transit Workers Union had refused to go to mediation with the city of New York, and, as a result, “there’s a whole debate raging about whether 33,000 people should be able to hold a city of 8.5 million people hostage over contracts that by law they are not allowed to strike against.”

     Cafferty was referring to the Taylor Law, which took effect in New York in 1967 and forbids strikes by most public employees in the Empire State.

     Cafferty’s co-host Susan Lisovicz added that transit workers start at “$52,000, close to $53,000-a-year” while rookie police officers and probationary firefighters earn about $25,000. The Times’s Greenhouse and Chan similarly reported in a separate December 19 Times article that transit workers “have an average base salary of $47,000 and average earnings of $55,000, including overtime.”

     But while the Times portrayed well-compensated transit workers as ill-treated civil servants, no mention of the Taylor Law was made, nor were the viewpoints of city administrators or millions of potentially stranded New York commuters included for balance.

     Chan and Greenhouse failed to report what Greenhouse wrote in a separate Times article: much of the contract dispute between transit union workers and the city of New York centers on benefits to future employees in a “two-tier” contract structure which saves labor costs over the long-run without cutting benefits for current workers.

     The “two-tier” contract structure was designed by city administrators to lessen the heavy burden rising labor costs place on the city’s taxpayers.

     Media imbalance on labor disputes is hardly a new phenomenon. The Free Market Project has previously documented how the media have skewed stories in favor of unions.

 


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