April 4, 2011

As With Death-Threat Arrest, AP Treats Wis. Union Intimidation of Businesses As a Local Story

Once again, despite almost two months of national coverage Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law and the protests and bad behavior which have accompanied it, the Associated Press is deciding that the nation’s news consumers outside of the Badger State don’t need to read, hear, or see news relating to unions and leftists acting illegally.

In a post on Saturday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that the wire service treated the arrest of Katherine Windels for issuing death threats to all but one of the GOP’s state senators as a local story. Later on Saturday, NB’s Noel Sheppard noted the virtual absence of media coverage of Windels’ arrest on any broadcast network newscast or cable new show (except Fox’s O’Reilly Factor).

The AP apparently believes that unions attempting to intimidate businesses into supporting their agenda — or else — isn’t something that anyone outside of Wisconsin should care about. Even then, there is a palpable reluctance by the wire service to provide much in the way of accurate detail.

Here are some those details, as reported at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s online blog (bold is mine):

WSEU circulating boycott letters

Members of Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, have begun circulating letters to businesses in southeast Wisconsin, asking them to support workers’ rights by putting up a sign in their windows.

If businesses fail to comply, the letter says, “Failure to do so will leave us no choice but (to) do a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means ‘no’ to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members.”

Jim Parrett, a field representative of Council 24 for Southeast Wisconsin, confirmed the contents of the letter, which carries his signature. But he added that the union was also circulating letters to businesses thanking them for supporting workers’ rights.

Parrett said that since the letters were sent out, he has received threatening phone calls as well as calls from people supporting the state workers.

“I’ve gotten a lot of threatening phone calls,” Parrett said.

… In the letter from Parrett to some businesses, he says that, “It is unfortunate that you have chosen ‘not’ to support public workers rights in Wisconsin. In recent past weeks you have been offered a sign by a public employee who works in one of the state facilities in the Union Grove area. These signs simply said, ‘This Business Supports Workers Rights,’ a simple, subtle and we feel non-controversial statement gives the facts at this time.”

Parrett said a number of WSEU locals in his region represent more than 1,300 union workers who have a combined yearly income of more than $56 million.

… Terri Gray, executive director of the Union Grove Chamber of Commerce, said she had received many calls from member businesses about the union-led effort. She said most of the calls came from businessmen and women who preferred to remain neutral in the dispute between Gov. Scott Walker and organized labor.

“They don’t want to pick a side,” she said. “I told them, ‘I believe you can choose to not choose.’”

Here is how the AP reported it, in full, on Thursday:

Union warns of boycotts for lack of support

Some members of the State Employees Union are warning businesses in Wisconsin to either support collective bargaining for public employees or face a boycott.

A letter from Council 24 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees asks businesses to express support by displaying a sign in their window. The letter says failing to support the union will mean a public boycott of the business. And, that neutral means ‘no’ to supporting the union.

Jim Haney from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce calls the union’s letter appalling. Haney says businesses shouldn’t be forced to choose if they want to remain neutral.

Council field representative Jim Parrett, who signed the letter, tells the Journal Sentinel that he has gotten threatening phone calls since the letters were distributed, as well as calls of support.

Why either the Journal Sentinel or the AP is particularly concerned about the grief Parrett is getting is beyond me. After all, he is the instigator. Also, memo to AP: Your opening sentence makes it appear as if rogue union members are involved. Parrett and other Council members who were almost surely aware of the letter’s content aren’t “some members” of the union; they’re union officials, and should have been tagged as such in the opening sentence.

The J-S and AP should be more interested in whether crimes are being committed in the boycott threat. Bret Jacobsen at BigGovernment.com notes a couple of laws which have likely been broken.

A Google News search on the “Union Warns of Boycotts” (in quotes, sorted by date, with duplicates) returns 28 items, all of which appear to be Wisconsin-based.

The Windels and intimidation-boycott incidents demonstrate that more than any other single organization in America, the Associated Press is driving national news coverage priorities. If AP doesn’t think it’s news, it will normally take a great deal of attention elsewhere before it becomes otherwise visible. Likewise, if AP wants to keep a story local by refusing to feed it to its subscribers nationwide, it will take a significant effort by someone else before it will become more generally noticed. Even when made visible by others, the stories involved are far less likely to get the attention of the 80%-85% of Americans who are relatively disengaged and get their news through passive formats like top-of-hour radio broadcasts and television.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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