When the Left Isn’t Right

Anyone who’s spent any time studying or participating in progressive organizations knows that, ironically, sometimes these organizations treat their own employees worse than the organizations they campaign against (as so brilliantly pointed out by this cartoon).

I thought about this paradox when I heard about the campaign asking five hosts of MSNBC television shows to support the unionization campaign at Peacock Productions, a production company owned by NBCUniversal that produces material for MSNBC and other NBC affiliates. The campaign to organize Peacock’s writer-producers is being conducted by the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE); a unionization vote has been held, but the ballots have not been counted because NBCUniversal claims that many of those who voted are “supervisors” whose votes should not be included. (Because they are the workplace representatives of a company’s managers or owners, supervisors are usually excluded from voting in unionization votes, or from being in the same union as the employees they supervise.)

MSNBC regularly covers labo(u)r-related and worker-related stories that get little attention elsewhere in the media. So WGAE has now started a MoveOn.org petition addressed to five MSNBC hosts – Chris Hayes, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, and Lawrence O Donnell – to ask them to publicly support WGAE in this dispute, on the basis that they are “strong voice[s] for labor and progressive causes”.

According to this story in Salon, Chris Hayes has allegedly met with Peacock Production workers to hear about their concerns. However, three of the other hosts named in the petition have not responded to email messages asking about the campaign.  The fifth host, Ed Schultz, responded to Salon’s email with a message stating that MoveOn.org is not his “ally”, and then did not answer subsequent messages. This story adds that Schultz also refused to explicitly express support for the campaign when he was challenged by a reporter calling in to Schultz’ radio show.

Salon speculates that perhaps the MSNBC hosts fear retaliation from MSNBC or from NBC if they support the organizing campaign.  Since MSNBC has been recently struggling with low viewer ratings,  that fear may be quite real – but at the same time, it’s disappointing when hosts that obviously understand labour and worker issues are unwilling to show solidarity within their own corporate workplace.  Ed, Chris, Rachel, Al and Lawrence – please “lean forward”, and  support the fight for equality and fairness that you so eloquently talk about on your shows. As Ed says: when you stand with the workers, you can’t lose.

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