With its announcement elevating host Chris Hayes to the 8 p.m. weeknight slot, MSNBC may well please progressive, professional urbanites. It may well please media critics. And it may well please lefty ideologues.
Not unions, however. “Ed did a hell of a job talking of the plight of people in the middle class,” Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers, told the Erik Wemple Blog this afternoon. Though Gerard expressed optimism that Schultz would continue to fight for workers in his new schedule—weekends from 5 p.m. till 7 p.m.—he said of the move: “Not having him in that time slot is a big loss for people fighting to stay in the middle class and to get into the middle class,” he said.
And this particular loss has a tie-in with MSNBC’s corporate structure, says Charlie Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights. “The problem is that the ownership of Comcast—they’re not pro-union in any way. They’re like extremists and I think that certainly has something to do with it,” says Kernaghan, who most pointedly did not drone on about Ed’s problems pulling in younger viewers.
In a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, MSNBC President Phil Griffin scoffed at any hint of anti-unionism in the Schultz move. “No,” he stated flatly after struggling with the notion of even responding to the charge. (Much more to come from Griffin).
MSNBC hosts, says Kernaghan, do good work but don’t necessarily speak to union values in the manner of Schultz. “It’s…the union angle of what’s going on across the country in terms of right-to-work states and taking away collective bargaining. This is a backlash on the part of the very right Republicans to try to dismantle union organizing and union benefits and decent wages and no, I don’t see that [advocacy] coming from anyone else MSNBC’s got,” says Kernaghan.
In another development, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is circulating an online thank-you card for Schultz to credit his work on behalf of workers; by 3 p.m. it had more than 16,000 signatories. Perhaps such a number gauges the discontent among working class and union advocates in MSNBC’s decision. But really: To what other cable outlet will these folks flee for simpatico viewpoints? Fox?
Both Gerard and Kernaghan have been instrumental in finding a landing spot for Scott Prouty, the bartender/videographer who caught Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney making those comments about the “47 percent” of Americans at a May 2012 fundraiser in Florida. After Kernaghan’s group issued a report in September about working conditions in China, says Kernaghan, Prouty contacted him and told him about having done the video recording. At the time, of course, Prouty’s work, but not his identity, was known to the wider world. Kernaghan was concerned about his well-being: “If they could kill this guy, they’d kill him,” says Kernaghan about the political enemies. “I sort of said, ‘We gotta watch each other’s backs.”
Kernaghan hooked up Prouty with a trip to the inauguration, and also helped him network with the United Steelworkers.
Gerard, the Steelworkers’ topper, says, “Scott is a very talented person with lots of skills and we have lots of projects nationally and internationally for him. We have to make sure we have his back because he’s still concerned about whether folks would accept him for what he said…We need to make sure he can earn some living.”
Both Kernaghan and Gerard say they supported Prouty’s decision to tell his story on “The Ed Show,” though it was clearly his preference. “We didn’t discourage him from hooking up with Ed,” says Gerard. And Kernaghan says that Schultz’s shtick appealed to Prouty. “He said, ‘I think I’d rather do Ed. It’s someone I could really trust, someone I could have a beer with,” says Kernaghan. (Prouty couldn’t be reached for this post).