We’re starting to think that business journalists should probably adopt a moratorium against appearing on political chat shows. When Chrystia Freeland of the Financial Times went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” she was attacked for being in the tank for the Obama administration by the host. And then Andrew Ross Sorkin stumbled into a hornet’s nest when he made a controversial comment about unions.
“Name a successful unionized company. Think. You’re gonna go to break before you come up with one,” Sorkin said.
This provoked howls of outrage from the left and union officials. Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said Sorkin’s “ignorance” was an “embarrassment” to the New York Times.
“Sorkin and the Morning Joe crew just showed their complete failure to understand how unions contribute to the success of the American economy by blindly assuming that unionized companies haven’t been profitable in the last year,” said James Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Talking Points Memo began assembling a list of successful unionized companies. Leftist media watchdog website Media Matters pointed out that Sorkin was labelled “The Worst Person In The World” by Keith Olbermann for prior remarks about unions at GM.
Now Sorkin is trying to defuse the situation, apparently. He’s issued an apology through TPM’s Brian Beutler:
Boy did I touch the third rail! My off-handed comment was admittedly flip. I apologise for that. It was meant to provoke a conversation.
I did not mean to suggest that there are literally no successful companies that employ union workers. Of course there are! Your readers have provided a good list (though I might quibble with some of the names.)
I made the unscripted comment with my financial columnist hat on in the context of the problems at GM. That’s what the discussion was about on the program. And when you look at some of the once great iconic American industries that have faltered — automobiles, airlines, steel, apparel, etc — there is a fair question worth asking about whether those industries were helped or hurt by their unions. But let’s leave that debate for another day.
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