A Union Third Rail…

Salon’s Josh Eidelson has an interesting wrinkle in the saga of Peacock Productions producers trying to unionize…

Amid workers alleging union-busting by an NBC Universal-owned company, MSNBC’s prime-time host Chris Hayes recently met privately with a group of them to hear their concerns, according to several people present at the meeting.

Hayes is one of five prime-time MSNBC hosts – along with Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell and Ed Schultz – whose support the Writers Guild of America–East is seeking in an ugly labor struggle with Peacock Productions, which is owned by NBC Universal and has produced programming for MSNBC. A petition posted by the AFL-CIO and hosted by MoveOn.org Civic Action asks the five hosts to “Please meet with these workers and take a public stand to support their right to organize” at Peacock Productions. None of the five has so far publicly addressed the issue.

Hayes, Maddow, Sharpton and O’Donnell did not comment in response to Monday inquiries (sent to MSNBC or personal email addresses, to Sharpton’s National Action Network, and to Random House, which published Maddow’s book; Random House referred the inquiry to MSNBC).

I’ve been somewhat bemused by this story before today’s news broke. The idea that any of MSNBC’s talents would want to go anywhere near that career third rail of a story always seemed too preposterous to contemplate. It’s one thing for the union to make a public appeal for MSNBC’s progressive talents to intervene or at least notice the problem. It carries absolute zero weight and has absolutely no chance of influencing NBC but it makes for good optics from the union’s standpoint. But it’s another thing entirely for any of the talent’s to fall for it and get sucked into what for them would be a lose-lose scenario. And yet Hayes has apparently done just that.

Why would Hayes do such a thing? Does he have an MSNBC career death wish? He should have known this would leak out…that the union would betray him by leaking his appearance to the media, thus leaving him twisting in the wind, as he is right now.

Why is Hayes twisting in the wind? Because, unless he got approval from management to meet with these people (something I find extremely unlikely), he just crossed a line he shouldn’t have crossed and put himself on the bad side of NBC corporate. That he may have only just listened without ever having any intention of trying to intervene on their behalf is irrelevant. From NBC’s standpoint he stuck his nose into a situation he shouldn’t have…and NBC will be keeping score as to who is on their side and who isn’t.

If this wasn’t officially approved, I can almost guarantee NBC will be talking with Phil Griffin if it hasn’t already and it will be saying “What the hell is going on over in your shop? Your employees are running around like loose cannons getting involved in things they shouldn’t be. Do something about it!” And Griffin will then take Hayes to the woodshed. I can’t say with 100% certitude that this isn’t a firing offense because I don’t know how secure Hayes’ position inside MSNBC really is. But this sort of betrayal, and from NBC’s standpoint this is a betrayal if it wasn’t signed off on in advance, is the kind of thing people lose jobs over.

And then there’s this…

But, asked about the campaign, Schultz emailed Salon, “Moveon.org has never been an ally of Ed Schultz, why should I help you with a story? Give me a reason.”

I don’t get the Moveon.org reference. What does Moveon have to do with Salon? What is Schultz referring to here? Anyone know?

37 Responses to “A Union Third Rail…”

  1. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    Had he high ratings, he might be able to get away with it. However, this kind of stuff could get Hayes blackballed. NBC will label him a “troublemaker,” and the others (ABC, CNN, FOX, etc) will take note.

    As for Ed – Who knows what is going on in Edworld? I sometimes wonder if he does.

  2. Idealistic Liberal Preppy Guy, meet Huge For-Profit Corporation You Work For. Oops.

    Ed was reacting to Moveon.org being the host of the petition for his services. He was basically telling Salon and Moveon to piss off.

  3. Ed collects a quarter million bucks from unions a year. He’s bought and paid for by two masters.

  4. – two masters –

    Way to respond to an article with meaningless blather.

  5. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    NBC is one, the unions are another. 1+1=2

  6. Yes, I get that Ed works for MSNBC and supports unions. I work for the state and support unions. So let’s do a round of “Joe has two masters” for no apparent reason, then call it “commenting”. It’s not commenting. It’s filling space.

  7. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    I doubt the unions give you a quarter million bucks, Joe. More likely, you pay them dues. Big difference.

  8. I don’t think that was meaningless blather. The “no man can serve two masters” is an aptly used idiom for Mr. Shultz’s situation between his employer and the union because he was forced to choose one over the other.

  9. Nobody “forced” Ed to choose something. There’s a dispute somewhere in the bowels of the corporation which owns his network. He would be insane to get involved, as Chris Hayes is about to learn the hard way. This “two masters” thing is a silly argument.

  10. He forced himself to choose. So did Chris Hayes sort of, just Schultz appears to be the wiser one.

    We all occasionally find ourselves in the position of serving two masters and facing the inevitable choice of one over the other. There’s always repercussions.

  11. Peacock Productions produced the Nik Wallenda Skywire Live wire-walk for Discovery. Maybe the stars of Naked & Afraid were “forced to choose”, too.

  12. I think you’re intentionally missing a small point that doesn’t deserve this much discussion. Were Nik Wallenda and/or the cast of Naked & Afraid paid a quarter million bucks by unions in addition to whatever they earned from Peacock?

  13. And if they fell, would union workers have to sweep them up?

  14. It’s a miniscule point not worth mentioning. Ed works for a unionized company, and does activism for unions. It’s all above board, and nothing in his job description conflicts with it. As Spud’s post clearly delineates, Chris Hayes is an idiot to get involved, and Ed Schultz didn’t. But “Ed unions liberal bad”, so let’s make up a conflict. I know this game.

  15. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    You may know the game, but sure don’t understand it. Schultz was paid one quarter of a million dollars by the unions. You don’t see a conflict of interest?

  16. I don’t see anything impressive about tightrope walking. The only interesting part of his Niagara Falls walk was the very end when he had to show his passport. Although “Tightrope Walking Across The Grand Canyon With The Stars” might be fun. © Peacock Productions.

  17. It’s not a conflict of interest, Nix.

  18. My favorite part of the Grand Canyon bit was the “not crossing the Grand Canyon” part. He crossed two high points on the same side. Same with Evel Knievel and the Snake River Canyon. Same side.

  19. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    I meant “serving two masters,” Al. You are right.

  20. As with eating fire, you create the illusion of danger. Like Penn and Teller, or Siegfried and Oops.

  21. SNORT!

    Damn you, chickie.

  22. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    Check this out, Joe: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/pure-evel/videos/knievels-jump-over-snake-river-canyon.htm

    He’s lucky that he didn’t slam into the canyon wall.

  23. It’s a freakin’ miracle he survived that. Knievel faced several outcomes on the way down, and he got the only good one. Amazing.

  24. […] blog Inside Cable News thinks this is a serious career mistake for Hayes, maybe even a firing offense. Can MSNBC cashier […]

  25. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    He didn’t even break any bones. But, had the Skycycle hit the canyon wall while swinging on those parachute lines….

  26. savefarris Says:

    Ed works for a unionized company, and does activism for unions. It’s all above board, and nothing in his job description conflicts with it.

    Richard Trumka, the head of AFL-CIO, appears on Ed’s Show pretty regularly. And not once has Ed prefaced the interview by saying “By the way, Mr. Trumka’s organization and it’s affiliates have personally paid me nearly $200,000 this election cycle.”

  27. Viewers of Ed’s show, for the most part, do not know that he is also being paid by the unions. I would think that that little tidbit of information may be interesting, useful, for some of his viewers and help them put any story about those unions into a different perspective than they may otherwise. They may also not care which is their prerogative.

    Either way it is disgusting and MSNBC should put a stop to it. But, they let Rev Al do whatever he wants so I’m guessing that’s why Ed feels he can do whatever he wants also.

  28. I drove across Snake River Canyon a few weeks before Knievel attempted his jump and saw the rocket launcher. It was only a few hundred yards away from the U.S. 80 bridge…

  29. They fired that thing off near a major highway bridge? Brilliant!

  30. Joe just gunning for me. Must have griped him my comment was defended.

  31. You can get away with this stuff when you deliver ratings. Chris Hayes doesn’t.

  32. […] blog Inside Cable News thinks this is a serious career mistake for Hayes, maybe even a firing offense. Can MSNBC cashier […]

  33. Temper flare by Big Ed:

    Hurling accusations of “Income envy” by the OWS booster. The irony is as rich as Ed is.

  34. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookwa meentwasiaani Says:

    Larry, it’s payola, just like radio DJ’s got in trouble for in the 50’s and 60’s. He gets money from the unions, then brings on people like Trumka for friendly infomercials.

  35. Labor and the Information Economy: Which side are you on, Ed? | PandoDaily Says:

    […] appreciate that reality, consider this Inside Cable News dispatch about Hayes’ meeting with union organizers (emphasis […]

  36. […] in hearing the workers’ concerns. This may seem too tepid to deserve applause, but the blog Inside Cable News suggests Hayes’ actions, by industry standards, could warrant termination, regardless of how beloved […]

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