Gore's support of striking workers serves political aspirations
Labor unions have always significant political clout, now they have proven new ways to use it.
There is nothing wrong with the creative strategies an ABC network workers' union employed last week, but Vice President Al Gore's response was less than admirable.
Last week technical crews for the ABC network staged a one-day strike. When they tried to return to work the next day, they found themselves locked out by network management.
Uncontent to stage the standard protests and picket lines, the workers' union used a more unusual technique to influence the employer. Union representatives urged politicians to refuse interviews with the network -- even though last week's elections were the top news story.
The request was honored by some political leaders, most noticeably Gore who cancelled a scheduled appearance on "Good Morning America."
Unions can use whatever tools they have available in an attempt to reach their goals. The displaced ABC employees found they had less leverage than they expected. The first day after the strike, most network production proceeded unhindered. There were reports of "Good Morning America" hosts looking into the wrong camera and a few daytime dramas that postponed filming. For the most part, however, the public did not miss the locked-out workers.
Not to be forgotten, the union played to the Gore's political prowess. Unions are traditionally strong supporters of the Democratic Party. Consequently, pandering to a union -- any union -- will aid his campaign for the Oval Office. With union support, Gore can count on thousands of votes and plenty of cash -- two essential assets for a successful campaign.
Gore's decision served his interests and the out-of-work ABC staff, but it did not benefit the rest of the nation -- the majority of the nation.
Political heavyweights have meddled with labor disputes in the past, but the situations were vastly different. When airline pilots went on strike prior to the holiday season, President Clinton called for federal arbitration to settle the dispute as quickly as possible. The airline strike warranted such action. Holiday travel problems would have affected most Americans. Striking cameramen, on the other hand, would have a much smaller impact.
Internal disputes at a media organization do not deserve attention from the American vice president, especially when the dispute is only a few days old.
Gore is, of course, a private citizen who can make personal decisions based upon his moral convictions. However, opting to cancel a media interview in this manner could create a troublesome precedent.
If Gore begins denying interviews to ABC because the network is fighting with a supportive union, the next step might be refusing White House press information to media outlets running unfavorable news stories.
The vice president is a busy person. He cannot honor every media request. That discrimination, however, should be based on considerations such as exposure, topics of discussion or scheduling. Instead, Gore is pursuing a personal agenda and not the national interest.
If Gore felt an interview on ABC worth his time before the one-day strike, the event would have been just as valuable after the lock out. Gore's public appearances offer him an opportunity to present the Clinton administration's point of view and address the American people. When he cancelled the interview, he threw away an opportunity to make a statement few people even noticed.
The drafters of the Bill of Rights considered the press a valuable asset, choosing to protect its freedom. Gore's action indicates he considers the press unimportant. He chose to manipulate a media institution instead of aiding journalists who work to serve their consumers.
Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.