OLD Media Moves

Covering labor disputes

September 6, 2005

The art of writing about labor unions is declining in the media world. That’s mainly because of the decline in union membership — from one-third of the U.S. population in the 1950s to about one-tenth of the population today.

But recently, some newspapers have distinguished themselves with their coverage of labor disputes at some of their area’s biggest employers.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has done an excellent job of documenting the Northwest Airlines mechanics strike. In fact, the coverage was examined by the reader’s representative at the newspaper recently, and she discovered that both sides have been treated fairly. Read more about it here.

The two Seattle newspapers — The Times and the Post-Intelligencer — have also had a strike to cover in the past week. The Boeing machinists have been on strike, putting that story onto the front page.

Even though Labor Day was a holiday, a Times business reporter spent the day off updating readers on what was happening. You can read the story here. I also like how the online business section of the Times has a link where readers can subscribe to receive e-mail updates of breaking Boeing news.

At the P-I, which shares a building with the Times under a JOA, its coverage of the strike last Friday and Saturday was extensive. On Saturday, there were three separate stories, including one on the reaction of other unions. One of the best was this piece.

I wish newspapers devoted more time and resources to covering labor and unions. Although the enrollment in unions is down, they affect everyone. When a company’s employees go out on strike or take any sort of action that affects their output, consumers are the ones who are affected.

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