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Historic Amazon Union Victory Largely Ignored by CNN, Sunday Morning News Shows
The biggest moment for American labor in years is having a difficult time getting past the gatekeepers of our pop political discourse.
None of the major Sunday morning talk shows—NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, or ABC’s This Week—mentioned the historic victory of the union drive at the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, despite it being the first successful vote to unionize an Amazon facility in the United States.
Nor has the cable news channel CNN ran a report it on air in the six days since news of the unprecedented union vote broke, minus one five minutes segment on Sunday morning at 6:30AM EDT.
CNN has text articles covering the vote on its website, along with a CNN+ online only interview with Amazon Labor Union leader Christian Smalls. But the millions who watch the actual cable news channel, if they had been watching 24 hours a day for the past six days, would have only seen one segment on the JFK8 union vote.
The four major Sunday news shows ignoring the Amazon union vote is a glaring omission. These shows help set the tone for what news is important to Americans: Watched by millions, they are a good barometer of what “conversations” corporate media thinks voters ought to be having. Guests are, by definition, who’s important, and the topics covered are assumed to be newsworthy and urgent to the average media consumer. The total absence of labor issues outside of capitalist framing around “jobs reports” and “wage inflation” is standard for Sunday News shows, which largely feature politicians, rent-a-pundits, CEOs, “business reporters,” and almost never any workers. But ignoring the biggest labor story of the past few years is exceptionally negligent even by their normally low standards.
The union vote was covered briefly by NBC Nightly News (time: 1 minute 44 seconds) and CBS Evening News (time: 20 seconds) the day of the vote. The CBS online-only show MoneyWatch interviewed Smalls a few days later, but the network itself had no other coverage.
Last September at The Column, we showed how the Sunday morning talk shows entirely ignored, for months, the sunsetting of poverty-reducing pandemic aid and eviction moratoriums, instead featuring nonstop, weeks-long coverage of how bad the Afghanistan withdrawal was.
Just the same, the Sunday morning talk shows this week were wall-to-wall coverage of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, the January 6th investigation, and the FBI’s Hunter Biden probe. All three are clearly important stories, but these are certainly not the only major stories ongoing, and the sole focus on them largely serves to flatter corporate media’s revolving door of military brass, warhawks, and former FBI and CIA officials.
Compare this prioritization with the total lack of discussion of labor. How many on-air personalities in corporate media are ex-FBI, ex-CIA and ex-military, versus how many are ex-labor leaders, ex-union organizers, or ex-low wage workers themselves? When was the last time a labor leader was featured on any of the Sunday morning shows, much less a union organizer or worker? Why is “labor” never covered in the capital L sense, as a force for workers in opposition to capital—rather than an abstract label for a cohort of humans who are only spoken about in depoliticized language of “unemployment” and “jobs numbers”? Even when the story is forced into American media—when a scrappy band of American workers unaffiliated with any larger union cracks the seal on the country's second-largest private employer and the world’s third largest corporation—much of the TV media refuses to take notice, because they have neither the capacity nor institutional incentive to.
Correction: This article initially stated that CNN hadn’t covered the strike on its cable news station. It did, for five minutes at 6:30AM EDT last Sunday. We apologies for this error.