One-Sided Star Tribune Coverage of Anti-Janus Rally Reveals Deep Bias

Everyone agrees the Janus case going before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday is a big deal. Observers on both sides believe the high court will likely end mandatory “agency” or “fair-share” fees as a condition of employment, opening the door for big labor to lose thousands of members and fair-share participants in addition to tens of millions of dollars.

That’s why AFSCME, Education Minnesota and MAPE  held a Working People’s Day of Action rally at the State Capitol on Saturday to highlight their concerns over the consequential case. It’s also why American Experiment gave the Twin Cities media a heads-up two days in advance that there’s another side to the issue, including background on the Center’s involvement in the Janus case.

Our media advisory read in part:

On Saturday, February 24 there will be a rally at the State Capitol organized by AFSCME.  The rally and the organizers behind it may claim to speak on behalf all workers, but they do not.

Center of the American Experiment has filed a “friend of the court” amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of the teachers, police, firefighters, and public servants across the country who do not agree with the policy positions of their unions but are forced to pay for them anyway.

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We followed up yesterday by emailing, tweeting and posting this statement providing the media with the other side of the issue for the coverage of big labor’s rally.

“This is a pro-freedom, not anti-union, case. For several decades, public employees have been second-class citizens under the law. They are forced to pay fees to a union in order to keep their jobs, even if they have moral or political objections to how the union represents them or spends their dues. American Experiment supports employee freedom for Mark Janus and all public employees in Minnesota and 21 other states.” — Kim Crockett, Vice President, Center of the American Experiment

Twin Cities TV stations reporting on the rally all included Crockett’s quote in their stories, providing critical context in a narrative dominated by leftwing speakers and protesters.

But in its Sunday edition the Star Tribune badly shortchanged readers, who would have had to tune in local TV news to learn there’s another side to the issue.

Union advocates say mandatory dues are justified because nonmembers benefit from their efforts, and that without it, unions would lose influence and revenue. Critics say the requirement is an unreasonable mandate for workers who may object to union stances and how dues money is spent.

The case was brought by Illinois state employee Mark Janus against the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

“The intention of this case at the Supreme Court is to weaken unions by saying that you can benefit from the work a union does … but you don’t actually have to contribute to the work it takes,” said Mary Cathryn Ricker, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers and one of the organizers of Saturday’s event.

Star Tribune reporter Miguel Otarola might as well have been writing for Workday Minnesota with his hopelessly biased caricature of what’s shaping up to be one of the most important labor cases in decades.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter opened the rally by saying that unions have been at forefront of historical movements, such as civil and women’s rights.

“When people try to divide us, we know that unions are one of the critical tools for how we say we are united,” he said to cheers and applause.

Angela Byrne, a financial analyst with the state Department of Commerce and a member of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, raised a sign reading “United we bargain, divided we beg” from the second level of the Capitol rotunda.

For her, the case is about “trying to get the Supreme Court to make sure that they’re supporting the workers and don’t erode all the rights that we have left.”

The good news is that the Star Tribune gets a second chance to inform its readers about the important First Amendment issues the justices will hear debated tomorrow.  Reporter Otarola indicated he’ll likely cover a union press conference in St. Paul following the hearing in DC. American Experiment will be in touch–again.