Fox News repeatedly echoes only opponents of Employee Free Choice Act

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Fox News hosts, reporters, and contributors have repeatedly provided or echoed the claims of only opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers the right to form or join a union if a majority of workers sign a card stating they want to unionize. Absent from numerous reports and discussions on Fox News is the argument made by proponents of EFCA that under the current system, employers often fire union supporters and pressure employees to vote against unionizing.

In the past month, Fox News hosts, reporters, and contributors have repeatedly provided or echoed the claims of only opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would give workers the right to form or join a union if a majority of workers sign a card stating they want to unionize. Absent from numerous discussions and reports of EFCA on Fox News is any mention of the argument made by proponents of EFCA. They say that the legislation is necessary because under current law, in which an election process is triggered when 30 percent of workers sign a card stating that they want to organize, employers have responded to unionization efforts during the period before the vote is held by intimidating workers, firing workers, and threatening to shut down factories and businesses.

As The New York Times reported, "Union officials say they do not dislike the secret ballot, but rather the lengthy, expensive, adversarial campaign before the vote in which companies often fire union supporters and use videos, large meetings and one-on-one sessions to pressure employees to vote against unionizing." A September 2000 study by Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of labor education research at Cornell University, examined more than 400 NLRB certification election campaigns in manufacturing plants between January 1, 1998, and December 31, 1999, and found that 25 percent of employers fired at least one worker for union activity and that 51 percent of employers told employees that their plant might close if workers unionized. In a December 2005 study of organizing campaigns in Chicago, Chirag Mehta and Nik Theodore of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago wrote: "Aided by a weak labor law system that fails to protect workers' rights under the law, employers manipulate the current process of establishing union representation in a manner that undemocratically gives them the power to significantly influence the outcome of union representation elections. ... The findings of this report suggest that unions were unable to maintain worker support throughout the course of representation campaigns because employer interference eroded that support."

Fox News reporters, contributors, and anchors have also on numerous occasions echoed or failed to challenge the claim that EFCA eliminates the "secret ballot." Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House committee on Education and Labor and a leading proponent of EFCA, addresses that "myth":

MYTH: The Employee Free Choice Act abolishes the National Labor Relations Board's "secret ballot" election process.

FACT: The Employee Free Choice Act does not abolish the National Labor Relations Board election process. That process would still be available under the Employee Free Choice Act. The legislation simply enables workers to also form a union through majority sign-up if a majority prefers that method to the NLRB election process. Under current law, workers may only use the majority sign-up process if their employer agrees. The Employee Free Choice Act would make that choice - whether to use the NLRB election process or majority sign-up - a majority choice of the employees, not the employer.

Below are examples of segments on Fox News in which only the arguments of EFCA opponents were articulated:

  • During the November 21 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume, chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle reported that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) "warns that many on the left have been out of power for years and may want to fill their legislative dreams all at once. ... Proposals such as ending the secret ballot and union elections known as 'card check,' which McConnell called nonsense and unacceptable." Angle then quoted McConnell claiming of congressional Democrats: "I noticed they had a secret ballot yesterday choosing between [Rep.] Henry Waxman [CA] and [Rep.] John Dingell [MI]. If it's appropriate to elect the chairman of that committee in the House, it's certainly appropriate in deciding whether or not you want to be represented by a labor union at your company."
  • During the November 11 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Karl Rove said of President-elect Barack Obama: "He went to the AFL-CIO and said, I'm in favor of card check -- taking away the working man's right to a secret ballot. But he didn't make that part and parcel of his daily campaign."
  • During the November 8 edition of The Journal Editorial Report, host Paul Gigot said: "I don't know how that's going to go over on Capitol Hill, but let's say you are at the AFL-CIO -- John Sweeney, the head of that union organization -- and you think, look, we spent tens of millions of dollars to elect Democrats. We want some payback, OK. We want some reward for our effort. And that includes this ban on secret ballots -- card check -- that would unite the business community in opposition to said -- to one of -- if Barack Obama did that, went right out of the box, to one of his first initiatives. How do you -- if you're in the White House, what do you say to [AFL-CIO president] John Sweeney, who says, I want something back for what I did for you?"
  • During the November 8 edition of The Beltway Boys, while discussing "the worst parts of the liberal agenda," co-host Fred Barnes said: "I mentioned card check, which of course would allow unions to organize without allowing a secret ballot among people who may or may not want to be in a union. And that's when Republicans can have a field day. That may not come until the spring, but it'll be there. And then we'll see if -- particularly whether Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, can put together filibusters again."
  • During the October 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America, host Sean Hannity said: "Here's what you can expect within Obama's first two years: ... The biggest pro-union bill since 1935 -- it's called the Employee Free Choice Act -- would erase secret ballot elections." Hannity then aired video of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) claiming: "If you get rid of the right to a secret ballot, there is no way to stop a workplace from being unionized."

From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

ANGLE: But he warns that many on the left have been out of power for years and may want to fill their legislative dreams all at once.

McCONNELL: It would not be a good idea for the new administration, in my view, to go down a laundry list of left-wing proposals and try to jam them through the Congress. I think that would not be a great way to start.

ANGLE: Proposals such as ending the secret ballot and union elections known as "card check," which McConnell called nonsense and unacceptable.

McCONNELL: I noticed they had a secret ballot yesterday choosing between Henry Waxman and John Dingell. If it's appropriate to elect the chairman of that committee in the House, it's certainly appropriate in deciding whether or not you want to be represented by a labor union at your company.

ANGLE: Republicans would fight card check every step of the way, he argued, because it would Europeanize America.

A number of Democrats also believe President-elect Obama intends to govern in the center, so one House Democrat says no early move on card check.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): Well, I think sometime in 2009, but probably not in the first couple of months.

ANGLE: Early on, many Democrats believe Mr. Obama will take care to propose things that have broad support.

From the November 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

BILL O'REILLY (host): But what he did say, he would close --

ROVE: What happens -- what happens --

O'REILLY: -- Guantánamo. So I think that's what he's going to give them.

ROVE: Right. Well, but you know what? He said one or two of those things. Like he said once, he said I'm going to be for the Freedom of Choice Act, which does away with any restrictions on abortion.

O'REILLY: That would be suicide if he does that.

ROVE: Suicide. He went to the AFL-CIO and said, I'm in favor of card check -- taking away the working man's right to a secret ballot. But he didn't make that part and parcel of his daily campaign.

O'REILLY: No. If he does any of that stuff, where the talk radio and cable axis gets him --

ROVE: Right.

O'REILLY: -- he's dead. Real quick --

ROVE: Right.

From the November 8 edition of Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report:

GIGOT: All right, I don't know how that's going to go over on Capitol Hill, but let's say you are at the AFL-CIO -- John Sweeney, the head of that union organization -- and you think, look, we spent tens of millions of dollars to elect Democrats. We want some payback, OK. We want some reward for our effort. And that includes this ban on secret ballots -- card check -- that would unite the business community in opposition to said -- to one of -- if Barack Obama did that, went right out of the box, to one of his first initiatives. How do you -- if you're in the White House, what do you say to John Sweeney, who says, I want something back for what I did for you?

DOUG SCHOEN (Democratic pollster): Right, what I would say to John Sweeney is: Mr. Sweeney, we're in an economic crisis now. What your members need more than card check is help with their mortgages, unemployment insurance, home heating oil this winter, and aid to cities and to states that are having trouble balancing their budgets. That's far more meaningful than special interest legislation that will arguably benefit union leadership.

GIGOT: So, put that off for a couple years, and maybe we'll try to do -- see what we can do on other things --

SCHOEN: Absolutely.

GIGOT: -- and put it off later.

SCHOEN: Absolutely. You know, Bill Clinton got distracted by gay marriage early on in his administration, and -- again, putting aside the merits of that -- I think he felt that that undermined his ability to get things done. I think if Barack Obama went forward with card check, it would similarly hurt his ability to forge the kind of consensus we need.

From the November 8 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys:

MORT KONDRACKE (co-host): It doesn't look like it, but I hope you are right. OK.

BARNES: OK.

KONDRACKE: Third, Obama needs to control expectations, something he tried to do just hours after his election on Tuesday night in Grant Park in Chicago. Watch.

OBAMA [video clip]: The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we, as a people, will get there.

KONDRACKE: I thought that sounded like he was declaring for re-election, you know, that he's not going to finish in one term. But seriously --

BARNES: He can put off card check until the second term.

KONDRACKE: Yeah. Yeah. But, seriously, one thing that he has to avoid is a Clinton-like "gays in the military" snafu.

BARNES: Yeah.

KONDRACKE: And that card check could be his issue. He starts getting asked about card check and makes a position on that, there will be a battle royale.

[...]

BARNES: And the other thing they have to realize -- Republicans need to realize, there is only one big story now and its name is Barack Obama. And they're going to get lavish coverage that will drive Republicans crazy, but, you know, look, they're stuck with that for a few months. And taking, you know, little nicks at Barack Obama here and there is just not going to serve them in any way. What they need to do is hold their fire, just wait, just wait until in -- the Democrats in Congress and Obama get to the worst parts of the liberal agenda -- and there are a lot of them.

And I mentioned card check, which of course would allow unions to organize without allowing a secret ballot among people who may or may not want to be in a union. And that's when Republicans can have a field day. That may not come until the spring, but it'll be there. And then we'll see if -- particularly whether Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, can put together filibusters again.

From the October 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:

HANNITY: Here's what you can expect within Obama's first two years: universal healthcare. Obama's plan is a public insurance system and that means millions in taxpayer dollars funneled from private coverage to government entitlements. The biggest pro-union bill since 1935 -- it's called the Employee Free Choice Act -- would erase secret ballot elections.

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV) [video clip]: If you get rid of the right to a secret ballot, there is no way to stop a workplace from being unionized.

HANNITY: An overhaul in tax reform for super ultraliberals. That means imposing huge taxes on small businesses and corporations. Now, that's the lifeline of America -- exactly what we don't need.

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