Media Reality Check
  Notable Quotables
  Press Releases
  Media Bias Videos
  30-Day Archive
  The Watchdog
  About the MRC
  MRC in the News
  Support the MRC
  Planned Giving
  What Others Say
  Take Action
  Gala and DisHonors
  Best of NQ Archive
MRC Resources
  Site Search
  Media Addresses
  Contact MRC
  Comic Commentary
  MRC Bookstore
  Job Openings
  News Division
  NewsBusters Blog
  Business & Media Institute
  Culture and Media Institute

Support the MRC


What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

Tell a friend about this site

August 1997


Striking Out on UPS Coverage
Issue Analysis: Teamsters Strike Against United Parcel Service

Not many business stories get the amount of news coverage given to the Teamsters' union strike against the United Parcel Service (UPS). Network reporters could have seized this opportunity to go into depth about the issues involved in the strike.

Did they? Media Research Center analysts reviewed every story about the strike on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News between August 3 and August 12. There were a total of 43 stories during this study period. For the most part, reporters frittered away the chance to look in-depth at the strike, rarely going below the surface. For example, two of the main issues of the strike were either misreported or ignored by almost all reporters:

Part-time workers. The networks made much of the plight of part-time workers at UPS. Twelve of the 43 stories focused on the union complaint that UPS relied too much on part-time help instead of full-time employees. The Teamsters "want more full- time jobs and a limit on subcontractors," reported NBC's Andrea McCarren on the August 3 Nightly News. "Part-timers now make up more than half of the UPS work force." Several of these reports included profiles of part-time workers who want to work full time.

But no story during the study period pointed out, as did the August 7 Investor's Business Daily, that many people want to work only part time, such as those "who have other commitments like kids to raise or a full load of classes." Specifically, none pointed out, as IBD did, that 42 percent of UPS part-timers are college students.

CBS Economics Correspondent Ray Brady twice used the UPS strike as an opportunity to rail against the economy in general for creating too many part-time jobs. On the August 4 CBS Evening News, he reported that "across America the number of part-time workers is skyrocketing." Brady focused on workers who "have no choice" but to work part time. Then, in an August 7 "Eye on America" report, he saw "signs of a backlash" against this trend.

But as MSNBC Opinion Editor Phillip Harper points out, "According to the Labor Department, a full 80 percent of [part-time workers] aren't interested in full-time work. These are students, retirees and housewives who are quite content to put in a few hours at a service provider like UPS and then spend the rest of the day in some other pursuit." This number didn't make it into network stories about part-time work.

Pension benefits. Only two network stories during the study period focused on the company's desire to take over the workers' pension fund and the union's resistance to this proposal. (One was by ABC's Jackie Judd, the other was by Brady.)

No World News Tonight reporter even mentioned the word "pension" until Judd's August 10 story, a week into the strike. Brady's story didn't air until August 12. NBC Nightly News didn't air a full story about the pension issue during the study period.

For the first full week of the strike, viewers didn't hear the argument that by funding the Teamsters' pension operation, UPS is forced to subsidize the pensions of non-UPS workers, many of whom work for far less profitable competing companies.

"As UPS has been trying to explain to its Teamster employees," the August 7 Wall Street Journal editorialized, "the company could boost their pension payments 50 percent if they didn't have to subsidize the pensions of other Teamsters."

This is not to say that there weren't any informative network stories or that all of the reporting was pro-Teamster and anti- UPS. Nineteen stories profiled companies that relied on fast shipping and thus were being crippled by the strike.

NBC's Jim Avila, on the August 5 Nightly News, used the strike to explain the emergence in many businesses of "just-in-time inventory," and how this efficient business practice depends on fast, reliable shipping. And some reports mentioned that many workers wanted a chance to vote on the UPS proposal, but weren't allowed to by their union.

But by neglecting some important details about part-time workers and union-dominated pensions, the networks missed an opportunity to tell viewers the full story about the UPS strike.


Rich Noyes


Home | News Division | Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts 
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact the MRC | Subscribe

Founded in 1987, the MRC is a 501(c) (3) non-profit research and education foundation
 that does not support or oppose any political party or candidate for office.

Privacy Statement

Media Research Center
325 S. Patrick Street
Alexandria, VA 22314