Why are labor stories ignored by so many media outlets?
‘10 Nabisco plants closed by strike’ read a 1966 New York Times article, which is the first article that comes up in a Google search about the ongoing Nabisco strike in the New York Times because the newspaper of record, along with nearly every major media outlet in the US is ignoring a major labor story.
As a reporter this is frustrating and extends to my own personal experience in trying to get editors to accept labor stories, and pushing to have these stories taken seriously in priority while waiting days and days for news about a current labor issue/event I covered to be published.
There are hundreds of workers organizing strikes in unison at one of the largest and widely known snack brands in the US, Nabisco, the maker of Oreos. But you won’t hear about it on cable news outlets or major newspapers.
This has been an issue for years since I’ve been a reporter, such as three years ago when no media outlet was covering thousands of workers at Disney World and Disney Land were fighting for $15 an hour minimum wages as workers at an amusement park branded as a ‘magical’ and ‘happy’ place keep their workers in economic precarity through poverty wages.
It’s an issue for important and huge labor stories going on right now such as 1,000 coal miners in Alabama who have been on strike for over 5 months now, but have also been ignored by most media outlets, including the ones with the largest audiences, reach, and resources.
These trends are publicly detrimental. Stories about workers and the labor movement deserve to receive media coverage and attention.
The public is interested in these stories because it impacts us, individually, as a society, and these stories are fundamentally connected to our own workplaces and the distribution of resources in our world. From immense wealth and income inequality, the correlated drastic decline in union membership over the past few decades, the profiteering of public resources, erosion of social safety nets, and corruption of political systems, the media industry’s overall decision to ignore stories and collective actions of workers only serves to worsen these trends.
Workers are essential to producing the goods and services we consume and rely on, and the lack of transparency and accountability in connecting how a product like Oreos ends up on our shelves and in our homes, because workers produced, packaged, shipped, stocked, and physically sold them, only benefits the powerful at the expense of the vulnerable and marginalized.