New MSNBC show is broadcast five nights a week from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Ottawa (13 April 2009) - True or false? Nightly news television finally has a show that gives unions, labour and workplace issues a fair hearing.
Hard as it is to believe — in a media culture that tuned out working people and unions decades ago — it's true.
|Ed Schultz on the Employee Free Choice Act|
The Ed Show began April 6 on MSNBC and is aired five nights a week from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Available across Canada
Unfortunately, there is is no comparable show on Canadian television and no sign that the anti-labour, pro-business tilt of Canadian news programming will change any time soon.
But with the arrival of this new American show the picture south of the border has changed and, fortunately, the broadcast can be seen on cable across Canada. It's worth watching.
The hour-long program is hosted by Ed Schultz, who has had a longstanding national radio show, heard by some three million listeners on more than 100 radio stations across the U.S.
In his television role, Schultz focuses on the same middle class issues he has hammered for years on radio.
"I‘m the guy who represents people who take a shower after work," Schultz said as the new show was being launched. "I‘m going to be that guy who is going to be there for the working folk of America. I‘m a staunch supporter of unions."
The Ed Show joins a line-up of nightly MSNBC shows that offer a progressive alternative to the frequently right-wing, pro-business, pro-Republican programming that has drenched American TV for so many years, most notably on Fox News. The other nightly MSNBC shows include Hardball, hosted by Chris Matthews, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show.
'I'm your guy'
To underline the purpose of The Ed Show, Schultz announced in the opening seconds of the first broadcast, "If you are in the middle class - if you are a wage earner - I'm your guy. Let's get that straight. I have a passion for building the middle class."
Health care was the issue he highlighted on his inaugural show. "I know what's on the backs of small businesses in this country, I know what's at the heart of labour negotiations in this country. It's health care," he said.
His first guest was Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA).
Schultz also made clear from the outset that he will champion the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), the pro-labour bill that President Barack Obama has said he will sign into law if it is passed by the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Schultz is afraid the bill may not make it through Congress, however. He warned — in the wake of heavy corporate lobbying to kill the EFCA — that passage is no longer guaranteed and he called on supporters to redouble their efforts to lobby politicians in Washington.
The Senator for Wal-Mart
He was especially critical of Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas ("the Senator for Wal-Mart") who announced after weeks of waffling that she will vote against the bill — ostensibly because it would cause division and distraction in dealing with the economic crisis.
"Wait a second," Schultz challenged her.
"What division? What distraction? This is what the American wage earners want. Every poll in the workplace in the country is coming up positive on this.... Senator! Your state is 47th out of 50 when it comes to wages. I know Wal-Mart's in the back yard and they don't like this union thing at all, but looking at the total picture of it all, doesn't a rising tide lift all boats? Don't the people of Arkansas deserve this opportunity?"
Along with Lincoln, Schultz also came down hard on other "Blue" or conservative Democrats (mainly from the south) who are also wavering on the bill, and he challenged Obama to use his influence as president to lobby aggressively for the legislation.
It's been such a long time since workers and unions had a high-profile champion on prime time television - if ever - that The Ed Show may take some getting used to. But it's a task that workers everywhere will gladly take up.
Now if only Canadian television would follow MSNBC's lead.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE