U.S. official: We need independent labor media


WASHINGTON - The mainstream media has become so biased against working people that even a federal agency can't get its message out, says a senior Department of Labor official.

President Obama's Labor Department has an impressive list of accomplishments, but most of the media doesn't bother to report on them, Carl Fillichio, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's senior adviser for public affairs and communications, told the annual gathering of the International Labor Communications Association.

Referring to the midterm elections, Fillichio said, "Why we fared the way we did three weeks ago is because things weren't explained enough to people. There is a great need for people to get the full story."

The role of labor media is therefore all the more precious, he continued. In many cases, the only way his department can get its accomplishments known is through the independent media.

"We battle every single day when we try to put something out," he said. "The Washington Post, the New York Times, cable television" and others want to focus only on the nuts and bolts of policy issues. "Nobody is really telling the true story about how this is going to affect real people in real time in real ways."

Fillichio announced at the meeting that he had hired a staff person specifically to deal with labor media, and then proceeded to give his name, e-mail address and phone number to everyone in the audience.

The message was appropriate for the crowd. ILCA, with nearly 500 members,  is the professional association of newspapers, websites and other forms of media  published by labor unions or about the labor movement across the country. (The People's World is a member.)

In making his case, the official listed Labor Department accomplishments that the vast majority of Americans have never heard about.

The department has, since Solis took over, hired 720 bilingual grievance personnel, issued the largest OSHA fine in history, and, in a move unprecedented in U.S. history, completely shut down a mine because of worker fatalities.

"We believe that a worker doesn't have to die for a paycheck," the federal official said.

More than anything else, however, the biggest accomplishment of Solis's department so far, Fillichio told the crowd, was to bring it back up to pre-Bush, year 2000 standards.

"That's pathetic," he said, "but we gotta brag about that, because the previous administration brought it so low." He noted that "the previous Labor secretary, Elaine Chao, was the only Bush cabinet member who was there in the same department for eight years." He argued that over the eight years of the Bush administration, the employees and the department itself had been "de-souled."

"Here's something revolutionary," he said, speaking of the new department's accomplishments. "It was actually called 'revolutionary.' Hispanic workers are killed more than others on the job, so we held a Hispanic health and safety conference."

Fillichio is proud of the initiative, but said it was "ridiculous" that it could be called "revolutionary" or "historic," asking, "That was the first time an administration held such a conference?"

The Department of Labor will continue fighting for working people, he said, and will assess how to best do so given the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. Solis and her staff will focus especially on enforcing existing labor law, he said.

"We cannot depend on those other people - the traditional media - to get that message out," Fillichio concluded.

Image: Fillichio - Dan Margolis/PW

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  • The Obama administration needs to look beyond the big corporate media in order to get its message out. There is a lot of alternative media out there, from social networking sites online, to tweeting, to the "free" newspapers available in most large cities that often cover progressive issues and causes much better than what Palin, I hate to say it, accurately calls the "lamestream media".

    Posted by John Whiskey, 11/22/2010 7:59pm (5 years ago)

  • The problem extends beyond just this sort of issue. The entire media is entertainment based now. Facts, and the way issues revolve around them are not as important as getting people riled up.

    No more stories about how the world is working, just how it's falling apart.

    The only way it seems to get past this is not just an independent press, but an entirely new form of press that is essentially as interactive as something like... facebook.

    People will not pay attention unless they are actively involved in some way, and so that means the rules have to change.
    Most people don't even know how desperately connected political actions and their daily lives are. That connection needs to be reconnected.

    Posted by Joshu, 11/20/2010 3:55pm (5 years ago)

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