NYT's Conservative vs. Liberal Contrast: 'Clashes Over Curbs on Labor' vs. 'New Freedoms in Washington'

December 7th, 2012 2:21 PM

On Friday, New York Times reporters Steven Yaccino and Monica Davey sourly greeted landmark conservative right-to-work legislation from Michigan in "Bills Placing Limits on Unions Advance in Michigan Legislature," The paper ran four paragraphs of quotes from the losing side, compared to three from the winners.

By comparison, the introduction of two liberal laws in Washington State, on gay marriage and marijuana legalization, were welcomed under the headline: "Two Laws Are Welcomed After Midnight in Seattle," with a single paragraph of dissent at the end. Legal reporter Charlie Savage did file a separate story on the Obama administration weighing legal action against Washington State and Colorado, but the issues there were technical and the sparse quotes were legalistic and neutral.

As labor supporters crowded into the Capitol chanting their dismay, this state’s Republican leaders announced on Thursday their intent to swiftly pass limits on unions in Michigan, a state with deep ties to organized labor.

“This is all about taking care of the hard-working workers of Michigan, about being pro-worker, about giving them the freedom to choose who they associate with,” said Gov. Rick Snyder, explaining why he would support such a measure -- a shift in his position.

Earlier in his term, he urged fellow Republicans not to bring the matter to his desk, saying it would stir too much dissension and was not on his agenda.

By Thursday evening, the House, controlled by Republicans, had approved part of a package of legislation that would ultimately bar workers from being required to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Two similar but separate bills passed the Senate, also held by Republicans.

If the entire package of legislation goes through, which could happen as early as next week, Michigan, the birthplace of the United Automobile Workers, would become the 24th state in the nation to pass such a ban, a designation that was once largely focused far from the Midwestern rust belt.

“To do this now is very poor timing,” said James Settles Jr., a vice president for the U.A.W. “Labor and management have been cooperating closely in the automobile industry and have really helped the industry recover,” he said, adding at another point: “Michigan is on the rebound, and right-to-work is going to be very divisive. This will add to the divisiveness in the state.”

In contrast, Stacey Solie's copy remained virtually critic-free, when she wrote of the introduction of two liberal laws recently passed in Washington State, on gay marriage and marijuana legalization: "Two Laws Are Welcomed After Midnight in Seattle." The Times's front page-tease headline celebrated the "New Freedoms in Washington." (The Michigan ruling was teased with a photo showing pushing and shoving among protesters, under the negative headline "Clashes Over Curbs on Labor.")

At 12:01 Thursday morning, the King County administration building here opened its doors to hundreds of couples waiting to apply for marriage licenses, the first day that same-sex couples were able to apply after Washington voters last month approved a ballot measure making it all perfectly legal.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, the office had issued 481 licenses -- most of them to same-sex couples -- doubling the previous record for licenses issued in a single day, Barnaby Dow, a county spokesman said.

Also around midnight, in another part of town, a different kind of party was taking place under the city’s Space Needle, where dozens of people had gathered to celebrate the vote to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state.


As at the Space Needle, the atmosphere was celebratory. There were flowers, people blowing bubbles and supporters who serenaded those in line with “Going to the Chapel.”

Mildly discouraging words were saved for the last paragraph:

And not everyone is celebrating. Angel Martos, 45, volunteers at a local marijuana dispensary and smokes to ease pain from treatment for stomach cancer. She said the dispensary has been inundated with calls from people who want to buy marijuana for recreational use, even though it is illegal for the dispensaries to sell it to them. “It is a good thing in theory,” Ms. Martos said, “but the law itself is misleading.”