Today's Papers

Winners and Sinners

The UPS strike settlement is everybody’s lead. The coverage generally has two components: describing the deal and then saying who won. The press consensus is that the Teamsters did what no labor union has done since PATCO was crushed in 1981–gone to the mat for its membership and gotten up a clear winner. Showing a bias towards politics and power figures, the New York Times says that the “indisputable victor in the strike” is Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. But even with that bias, a better case could be made for Ron Carey, who has probably deflected membership dissent and has become emboldened to immediately set his sights on unionizing Federal Express.

A big difference between the newspapers of today and those of a generation ago is a concerted effort now to explain events. Accordingly, the papers also take a shot at What The Strike Settlement Means. USA Today says the result is widely viewed as a “psychological victory for the labor movement.” The Los Angeles Times and NYT expand on the same theme, with the latter saying that virtually every labor leader in the country hailed the settlement as a “watershed.”

The Washington Post hedges its bets on this, saying that “Labor’s Win May be Brief” because the trend towards part-timers continues unabated. The Wall Street Journal is a more firm dissenter. It’s meaning-of-it-all piece is headlined “UPS Pact Fails to Shift Power Back Toward U.S. Workers.” It says a lot more than one strike will be needed to do that. The problem, says the Journal, is that union success hinges on penetrating the service sector, where jobs are transient and workers scared. And those who aren’t scared because their special skills put them at the top of the labor market already have too much bargaining power to need a union.

Two other observations about the significance of the strike bear repeating. USAT says that businesses will never again rely solely on UPS. And the LAT makes the point that the strike demonstrated just how dependent American companies and consumers have become on the “just-in-time” economy.

Both the LAT and USAT have front-page coverage of the NTSB’s findings that the ValuJet crash could have been avoided, with its particularly stinging criticism of its longtime rival, the FAA. But it’s USAT that properly emphasizes that the sort of illegal shipments that caused the crash are still going on. There have been at least 15 illegal shipments of oxygen canisters, says the paper, since the ValuJet disaster.

USAT dedicates its news section cover story to Web sex sites. The story has its share of amazing statistics, such as: “28.2% of Americans visited adult sites in May,” and “sex-related searches make up 10% to 20% of requests by visitors to search sites.” Besides describing a number of X-rated sites in some detail, the piece is practically a how-to, pointing out for instance, that the X-rated photos of the sort in demand are readily available from Usenet. After “The Nation’s Newspaper” runs a piece like this, do you think those stats are going to go down?