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Nutter, FOX News, and the SEPTA Strike
The mainstream press across Philadelphia is turning commuters against transit workers. Instead of practicing journalism and explaining to the public why transit workers have gone on strike, they have instead given a platform to one side of the contract negotiations and helped the Mayor pit working people across the city against the drivers and engineers who get us to work everyday.
Take this Fox News piece aired 12 hours after the strike began. Here is 5 and a half minutes dedicated to Nutter, with FOX acting as his mouthpiece. The anchors take every word from Nutter as fact without question. We are given no perspective or background from the union or the workers. The most we see of the SEPTA drivers is a few seconds of random clips. Not once do we hear a single voice from the other side.
In fact, just look at the words that are used throughout the segment by Nutter. "It was quite a despicable act, quite frankly. This was an ambush on the citizens of this city and the riding public." What is Nutter trying to imply? An ambush? The SEPTA workers have been without a contract for over six months, since March. The strike was a last resort. This so-called ambush is simply a result of Nutter's inability to secure a decent contract for the workers.
Nutter goes on to say that the strike has "been disruptive, it is inappropriate." The strike certainly is disruptive, but Nutter should be the one apologizing. Look at the crises from throughout the year. The budget that went unresolved for nearly a year, the pool closings through the summer, the threatened and actual library closures, the teachers contracts, the city workers contracts, and the fire and police contracts all still unresolved. What is disruptive is this way of running government.
One of the more subtle moves that Nutter tries to pull off is identifying with working people, as if everyone is sacrificing equally. But he isn't. Talking about how transit workers should "just be happy to have a job" turns this into an argument between people making $20,000 a year and people making $50,000 a year. Yet, even after his much-touted pay cut, Nutter still takes $167,000 a year for being mayor, not considering investments and assets. The top earner in the city, David L. Cohen the VP of Comcast took home $22,000,000 last year, up two percent from the year before. He made enough to settle the difference in the contract negotiations. Not everyone is sacrificing equally. Instead those making a little are told 'no one should ask for anything in these trying times' as if they were taking from those making even less.
Such a string of crises calls into question where Nutters' attention and priorities lie. When he claims that he has "no idea why these contracts were rejected," it's clear that he's both deceptive and deaf to people's concerns. Willie Brown, the union president representing the transit workers, spoke on the subject today. The issue is not pay - it's pensions. The transit workers are striking to ensure that the pensions they have now are around for the next generation of SEPTA drivers and engineers.
Nutter takes it upon himself to speak for all the people across the city. "People have lost their jobs, they've lost their pensions, they've lost their healthcare, and most are just happy to have a job." This is a clear case of Nutter trying to turn the working commuters and the unemployed against the drivers and engineers of SEPTA, as if it's the workers' fault that the economy is where it is. Slashing good contracts and forcing workers to negotiate away their benefits is a political decision that worsens the financial crisis, not improves it.
FOX News is not at all blameless here, either. While Nutter's language leaves much to be desired, the anchors offered no investigation whatsoever, instead preferring to nod along with Nutter's attack on the transit workers. When Nutter says that this contract is a great contract, why don't the anchors ask Nutter to explain? Nutter throws out a bunch of numbers without explanation, claiming the deal was "the best around," saying that "there's no offer like that anywhere around." What's the basis? Where's the comparison? Where's the history? Where is the journalism?
The way much mainstream media approaches these topics does not provide the public with the information that we need. It is a perspective that simply rephrases the desires of the decision-makers. Without dissent, there is no attempt to truly understand and criticize the information given. As we have seen, this leads to soapboxes and non-stories. Over the coming days of this coverage, we need journalism which talks to the people on strike, explains the background of the issue, and questions the opinions of public officials.
Lily, Sean, and Bryan
Reposted from MediaMobilizing.org