The Nation Would Like S.F. Media to Write Headlines That Pamper BART Workers on Strike
Moving into Day 3 of the BART strike, the lefty mag The Nation has chimed in on the debate, deciding that perhaps the trains would start moving again if only the San Francisco media would stop writing headlines that, well, reflect reality: Commuters are getting screwed.
Flickr/Steve Rhodes Thems the facts
The pro-labor piece penned by Allison Kilkenny lays out the issue: BART workers haven't gotten a raise in five years, they want one now, but BART management isn't willing to give them the 23 percent increase they've asked for. On top of that, they'd like a safer work environment. She then goes on to explain the real problem here: San Francisco's reporters.
According to Kilkenny, the mainstream media has made BART workers appear to be nothing but greedy hogs, and it's done so by talking to pissed-off commuters standing in long lines waiting to hop a bus or ferry. And the truth is, yes, some of those cranky commuters happen to think that BART unions are being greedy hogs. And some of them don't.
Here are some quotes from commuters:
- "I'm a little angry at both sides, that they couldn't reach some common ground and settle it," Gerard Alessi told NPR.
- Karen O'Connor, a city worker, had little sympathy for the striking BART workers, telling the Mercury News "We all have to pay into our pension. As it is, they are overpaid."
- "I'm very supportive of the BART workers in their negotiations for stabilized salaries and health and retirement benefits," Anne Coogan-Gehr told the Mercury News.
- "Give those BART people whatever they want -- let's just get this over with and get back to normal," Shanta Roberts told the Chronicle.
But from Kilkenny's perspective, the media is being too mean to the unions:
Hm. Perhaps a headline that would be both accurate and more coddling would read something like: "BART Strike Means No Train Delays Today."
Kilkenny goes on to say that those stranded commuters would have to do a lot of digging to find out what exactly the unions are demanding. But a quick Google search (type in ATU 1555 BART demands) turns up plenty of quotes from union reps and even the nonpolitical frontline workers, detailing their demands. Check out this piece, which shows a bulleted list of their safety demands.
So really, readers aren't challenged to find the truth, even if Kilkenny is.
The unions, meanwhile, are not interested in getting any more in the middle of the discussion than they already are:
"We made some progress tonight," said union negotiator Josie Mooney as she left the talks. "The mediator has asked us not to speak to the press."
We called Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, this morning, asking her whether she felt the unions were being unfairly portrayed in the media, and all she told us was: "We're working hard to get a contract and that is my focus right now."