News Story

Unions and a Complicit Media in Pro-Paid Sick Time Campaign

A case study in media bias

An orchestrated campaign promoting a bill to impose a paid sick leave mandate on most Michigan employers has the fingerprints of labor unions and a pollster with direct connections to the Michigan Democratic Party and legislators, and is being aided by a complicit media whose stories play down the potentially costly consequences.

One of the organizations identified by the media as part of the “statewide coalition” is Restaurant Opportunities Centers United – ROC-United-Michigan.

The website claims it is a front organization for unions. The website links to a blog post by Chris Bohner, a union official with UNITE HERE who claims that his union created ROC-United.

Another member of the coalition is Mothering Justice, an organization started by Danielle Atkinson. A website bio on Atkinson identifies her as working in Michigan from 2006-2012 “forming labor union coalitions. …”

Michigan Radio did a story that focused on a poll that found a large majority of respondents were in favor of paid sick leave. However, the poll wasn’t available on the polling firm’s website, Denno Research. Instead, it appears to have been released via the far-left website Eclectablog, which is operated by Chris Savage, the current chair of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party.

Denno Research didn’t respond to an email or phone message asking why the specifics of how the poll was conducted was only available on Eclectablog. Dennis Denno stated on Denno Research website: “Currently, he is (Democratic) state Senator Virgil Smith’s Chief of Staff.”

According to Eclectablog, the polling question was: “Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statement: all workers should be able to earn paid sick days in order to take time off work without losing pay to get well or take care of a child or elderly parent.”

A commenter on the Michigan Radio story posted, “Gotta love Michigan Radio … poll shows strong support for free beer and pizza ….. the parasitical leftists never ever quench their thirst for their neighbors money.”

Charles Owens, state director of National Federation of Independent Business, said those type of questions are “cute puppies” polling, as in “Do you like cute puppies?” Owens said a more fair question would have incorporated the consequences of forcing employers to offer paid sick leave.

Michigan Radio did two stories about paid sick time.

The story that included the Denno Research poll was nearly 300 words. Yet the story didn’t quote any opponents to the policy and had just this sentence regarding the opposition: “Some opponents say they are against across-the-board mandates, and others argue paid sick leave can hurt job creation.”

The second Michigan Radio story was about 230 words and only quoted Atkinson of Mothering Justice.

The article also appeared to go partisan when it included, “But the package of bills has only one Republican co-sponsor. It’s got 28 Democrats.”

Vincent Duffy, news director of Michigan Radio, responded in an email to claims the stories were not balanced.

“In both of these instances, the stories you point to are ‘web build outs’ from 30 second headline stories,” Duffy said. “In those headline stories, rarely is the side of any debate fully covered. While the time limits presented to us in radio rarely allow us to put everything we know into a headline story, I see your point (especially in the second story) and we could have done better. If  this story moves forward, we’ll be sure to cover all sides of the issue as is our history and our mission. Please feel free to let me know whenever you think we’ve failed in that.”

MLive did a story on the effort to get legislation passed to mandate paid sick time.

The MLive story quoted four sources in favor of passing the legislation. Only State Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township, was presented as the opposing viewpoint. No advocates of business were quoted in the story.

Robertson’s viewpoints were presented in the 12th paragraph of the story after three other people were quoted in support of the legislation to provide paid sick time.

Flint News Editor Bryn Mickle defended the coverage, saying he stood by the story.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.