CBS Proclaims: 'Workers of the Nation Unite' in MoveOn.org-Backed Union Protests

At the top of Saturday's CBS Early Show, co-host Russ Mitchell cheered unions protests across the country: "Workers uniting. 50 rallies are planned in 50 states today, as organizers show solidarity with Wisconsin state workers, fighting to preserve their right to collectively bargain for benefits and work conditions."

Introducing the segment later, fellow co-host Rebecca Jarvis noted how the protests were organized by MoveOn.org. Rather than accurately label the organization as left-wing, she simply referred to it as "an advocacy group." In the report that followed, correspondent Cynthia Bowers announced that "workers who are coming to these rallies around the country to support Wisconsin workers are being told to wear those red t-shirts we've become so familiar with." The headline on screen throughout the segment referenced Karl Marx: "Workers of the Nation Unite; 50 State Rallies to Support Union Rights."

On Saturday's Evening News, Mitchell again touted the protests: "Tens of thousands of activists rallied across the country today in state capitals like Albany, New York, and dozens of other cities, including Dallas, to show solidarity with unionized public workers in Wisconsin." At that time, Bowers reported: "For the thousand or so activists who protested in Chicago today in support of Wisconsin's public employee unions, the rallying cry was unity."

After noting how Wisconsin's Scott Walker and other governors were trying to balance state budgets by reducing spending on benefits for some public workers, Bowers added: "It's that attempt to weaken decades of public union clout that is bringing tens of thousands to the capitol building in Madison day after day, and to rallies around the country today." She melodramatically fretted: "The fear that unions may one day disappear from American life."

In her Early Show report, Bowers did feature a sound bite from Walker calling on Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Senate hiding in Illinois to return to work: "Come back to the state capitol. You want to participate in democracy, democracy happens when you're in the arena. The arena is not in Rockford, Illinois. It's not in Freeport, Illinois. It's not in Chicago, Illinois. It's in Madison, Wisconsin, in our state's capitol."

On the Evening News, Bowers spoke to one of those Democrats, Jon Erpenbach, and challenged him and his colleagues: "Public sentiment is saying that you guys should be in the state dealing with this, not out of state."


Here is a full transcript of the February 26 Early Show segment:

8:00AM ET TEASE:

RUSS MITCHELL: Workers uniting. 50 rallies are planned in 50 states today, as organizers show solidarity with Wisconsin state workers, fighting to preserve their right to collectively bargain for benefits and work conditions.

8:13AM ET SEGMENT:

REBECCA JARVIS: Meantime, rallies are scheduled today in every state capital and in some major cities in support of Wisconsin's unionized public employees, who are trying to keep their collective bargaining rights. They're organized by MoveOn.org, an advocacy group, following scattered rallies last week. And CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers is in Chicago with the latest. Cynthia, good morning.

CYNTHIA BOWERS: Good morning, Rebecca. And workers who are coming to these rallies around the country to support Wisconsin workers are being told to wear those red t-shirts we've become so familiar with. They're expecting about 1,000 here in Chicago, and up in Madison, though, the political stalemate that sparked all this, goes on.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Workers of the Nation Unite; 50 State Rallies to Support Union Rights]

After eleven days of protests, the Wisconsin state house began clearing out last night. Three long nights of filibustering by House Democrats finally came to an end as the controversial bill to cut collective bargaining rights for most public workers passed the state assembly early Friday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [PROTESTOR]: People are here because they want to defend their rights, their basic rights, to organize in the workplace.

PROTESTORS: Kill the bill!

BOWERS: And way beyond Wisconsin, protests have spread to Ohio, Indiana, and on Friday, to New Jersey, where thousands came out in support of Wisconsin workers. In Providence, Rhode Island, where the school committee is currently facing a $40 million budget deficit, the school board voted in favor of sending termination letters to the nearly 2,000 city teachers. The mayor insists not every teacher will lose his job.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [PROVIDENCE TEACHER]: I feel numb. I almost feel like I need to mourn like the death of an innocence, or – it's just surreal.

BOWERS: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is hoping to avoid those dire consequences of potentially laying off 1,500 state workers. On Friday, he repeatedly called for the 14 Democratic state senators who have been MIA for ten days to come home to Madison.

SCOTT WALKER: Come back to the state capitol. You want to participate in democracy, democracy happens when you're in the arena. The arena is not in Rockford, Illinois. It's not in Freeport, Illinois. It's not in Chicago, Illinois. It's in Madison, Wisconsin, in our state's capitol.

BOWERS: Illinois may be a safe haven for these missing Democrats, but it is facing far worse financial woes, and, in fact, in all the states, most of the states where folks will be rallying today, the financial shortfalls are being felt. And people are finding out the hard way that in times like these, something has to give. Rebecca.

JARVIS: Cynthia Bowers, our CBS News correspondent in Chicago. Thank you.

Here is a full transcript of the February 26 Evening News segment:

6:41PM ET TEASE:

RUSS MITCHELL: And still ahead on tonight's CBS Evening News, demonstrations across the nation in support of Wisconsin's public employees.

6:45PM ET SEGMENT:

MITCHELL: Tens of thousands of activists rallied across the country today in state capitals like Albany, New York, and dozens of other cities, including Dallas, to show solidarity with unionized public workers in Wisconsin. One of the bigger rallies was in Chicago and Cynthia Bowers was there.

PROTESTORS: Save our dream! Save our dream!

CYNTHIA BOWERS: For the thousand or so activists who protested in Chicago today in support of Wisconsin's public employee unions, the rallying cry was unity.

FRANK ZUCKER [UNION SUPPORTER]: Start doing away with the unions and then you have no rights at all.

BOWERS: Many here carried signs against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who wants to balance his state's budget shortfall by requiring public workers to pay more into their pension and health care plans and to end public employee unions' right to collective bargaining.

PROTESTORS: This is what democracy looks like!

BOWERS: It's that attempt to weaken decades of public union clout that is bringing tens of thousands to the capitol building in Madison day after day, and to rallies around the country today. The fear that unions may one day disappear from American life.

ELMER COSTABILE [UNION SUPPORTER]: I feel like we're the frog in the water and they're turning it up to boil, and before we know it, it's too late.

BOWERS: That's why State Senator Jon Erpenbach has been on the run for 10 days now, one of the 14 Wisconsin Democrats seeking exile in Illinois. In effect, shutting down the senate to avoid a losing vote.

JON ERPENBACH: What we did was a very extreme thing and I can't imagine any other issue that would cause us to say, 'Okay, we're out of here.'

BOWERS: Public sentiment is saying that you guys should be in the state dealing with this, not out of state.

ERPENBACH: We're doing our jobs. We're standing up for, again, not only what we believe in but what the people of the state believe in.

BOWERS: This divisive debate isn't isolated to Wisconsin. 12 other states are currently considering curbing public employee union power as part of budget balancing. Russ.

MITCHELL: Cynthia Bowers in Chicago, thank you.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC