North Texas Daily

Labor strikes should be about the workers not the economy

Labor strikes should be about the workers not the economy

Labor strikes should be about the workers not the economy
October 01
12:00 2022

Labor strikes are organized by workers that want to see improvements in their jobs. Whether demanding safer conditions or better pay, the act of a strike is used as a last resort to get the attention of those in power. However, news media in America focuses on one thing: expected money loss due to a strike.

A labor strike is meant to highlight the importance of the worker in relation to a company’s profits. Without the workers on the assembly line or in the warehouse, corporations wouldn’t make any money. While companies focus on the economic impact of a strike, the media should do a better job of emphasizing the worker’s demands for better working conditions.

A crucial function of a journalist is to expose people abusing positions of power. This principle is abandoned when the reporting is done on the big hit a company would take if a strike occurred.

CEOs want the media to highlight profit losses and their shareholders’ portfolios. A journalist should be able to look past attempts to monopolize the narrative around labor movements — especially finding out what causes an employee to walk out of the job that supports their livelihood.

In recent contract negotiations between America’s biggest rail companies and railway unions, the news repeatedly told the story of a potential supply chain crisis if a strike were to happen. Economic experts were invited to speak to major outlets about the impact the crisis could have on consumers and businesses. Meanwhile, railway workers who demanded they be able to visit a doctor without being penalized for missing work were ignored.

Rail unions had been in contract negotiations for nearly three years with the companies, meaning workers hadn’t received any raises since before COVID-19 dramatically increased inflation. Rail companies have seen record profits during the negotiation period but have worked to cut down on spending for employees. The companies proposed cutting crews down from two people to just one, which forces that person to remain alert to operate a freight train without break for up to 12 hours.

Railroads are an integral part of American commerce and the media understands this. By actively not covering the demands of the rail workers, journalists frame owners of the rail companies as the people hurt the most by a strike. Without providing an understanding of what the workers wanted, their demands were taken out of context and made them appear greedy and entitled.

Giving the company’s perspectives more airtime than the employees’ legitimizes an economic system where a handful of shareholders and bosses get incredibly rich while their workers struggle to make ends meet. Through this, reporters are once more going against the idea of standing up to those abusing their powerful positions.

America is seeing a wave of new unions pop up across all different industries. Amazon workers at Staten Island’s warehouse won a historic union vote where they defeated a company run by one of the richest men in history. Despite Starbucks being the biggest coffee shop chain in the country, its stores are unionizing across America

Because of the historic nature of these new unions — and because of photo-ops like the champagne-popping president of the Amazon Labor Union Christian Smalls — the media flocked to report on the triumph of the worker. The contract negotiations for the rail unions had been happening for nearly three years and only gained substantial traction when President Joe Biden’s administration agreed to oversee negotiations. It shouldn’t take a potential strike that could cost the country $2 billion a day for the media to start listening to workers. 

While it is important to understand how a strike would impact the economy, the news frames it incorrectly. A strike is meant to ask companies if their profits are worth the struggle of their workforce. For consumers, it’s meant to ask if their convenience is worth the exploitation of their fellow workers and of their own labor if this system continues to operate unchecked. 

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Jesse Sanders

Jesse Sanders

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