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The Need to Help Labor Radio Survive

In these terrible economic times

In these terrible economic times, it is hard for most working families to keep the bills paid. We all are struggling to stay in our homes, keep our old cars on the road and food on the table. Americans are certainly worried with good reason about keeping their jobs and affording health care. All of these problems can be traced more or less directly to excessive corporate power in America, both economically and politically.

The current health care insurance reform debate has highlighted for everyone how much the balance of power has shifted in terms of public debate against the interests of American workers and toward the interests of giant corporations. Corporate media have not given a real voice to labor leaders who represent the millions of American workers most heavily impacted by this issue. Right wing talk radio has distorted elements of the issue, the process and relevant facts beyond all recognition. Most of the opposition to real change from the American public comes from not hearing the truth. Lack of balance in this debate reveals the one-sided nature of corporate media.

Why was single-payer, universal health care deemed “off the table” when it is the norm in nearly every other industrialized nation in the world? It was corporate power! The corporate media deemed it “radical” and working Americans had no effective voice in framing the debate. We will all suffer as a result.

Corporate power killed the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting. This means that the public airwaves are solely being used even in political terms for private profit. Since corporations have huge spending advantages over their workers’ organizations (labor unions), workers have been effectively shut out of the public debate. It has impacted politics, government policy and American working family living standards for decades.

The relative lack of effective working families-oriented media has resulted in awful government policies that have ruined American manufacturing, killed Americans in unjustified wars and by denying health care, gutted pensions, legalized predatory lending, polluted our environment, weakened civil liberties, curtailed voting rights and given the wealthiest of the wealthy near-veto rights over government policy. Instead of government acting as a check and balance to international corporations, it far too often has become a tool of them. The ruination of the American economy has assisted the excessive concentration of wealth in our nation and weakened American democracy.

We cannot reverse this anti-working family, anti-American democracy course without getting our message to the American people. We must create a media network to help offset one-sided corporate media. Labor radio certainly will play a key role if it survives!

Progressive organizations and individuals inside and outside of organized labor must find a way to help struggling labor radio programs survive the current economic crisis. Will they? I do not know the answer.

Labor radio heroes, like Rick Smith of the Rick Smith Show and Charles Showalter of The Union Edge, already have given the cause thousands of hours and thousands of dollars personally trying to fill the void. This writer has done the same for nine years with my own Democratic Talk Radio program (although I would never call myself a hero) by donating tens of thousands of hours and spending around $40,000 personally.

Currently, the Union Edge is taking a short break from the airwaves do to the lack of financial support. Democratic Talk Radio may have to do the same. It is time for those able to assist to step up.

Progressive groups should shift part of their advertising to progressive media outlets instead of channeling nearly all of it into corporate media outlets. Advertising and/or underwriting the right kind of media will multiply many times over the impact of each dollar invested. As a movement and as individuals, we must get smarter in how we use our very limited resources.

Support should go to progressive magazines like the Progressive, the Progressive Populist, the Nation and similar publications. Vitally important blogs and Internet sites like, and OpEd will play key roles in creating an alternative non-corporate media.

Labor radio and progressive radio are only going to survive if labor unions, union activists and progressives fund the shows. Some of the best labor radio shows are:

Anything that you can do to support and build these radio shows, Internet sites and publications will help balance excessive corporate power. Like building the labor movement by joining a union, each individual action is small but working together will help everyone. The game is rigged against us as working people, but doing nothing means remaining forever the victims of excessive corporate power.

Each little individual action is a small victory for economic and political justice that makes it easier to win the next one.

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