Janitors Protest: A Rally Against Economic Injustice or A Public Nuisance?

labor strifeLast Thursday, hundreds of activists staged a protest in Century City outside of the JP Morgan Chase-owned Century Plaza building in support of 16 janitors who were laid off in a company cost-cutting move. The Service Employees International Union organized the demonstration, including a hunger strike – part of a series of actions that ended on Friday. Thirteen protesters were arrested after they sat down in the middle of a street intersection in an act of civil disobedience.

These protests were just the latest expression of outrage among the working classes across the country, who have suffered massive job losses and wage stagnation, while failing bank behemoths who wrecked the economy got bailed out to the tune of billions of dollars. The day of the janitors action, I wondered how much local news coverage it would get – if any at all. The protest did get the media’s attention, probably more so because of what it did (caused traffic jams), rather than what it represented (economic inequality and distress).

All five major local news stations – CBS2/KCAL9, NBC4, ABC7, FOX11 and KTLA – had stories about the protest. Most had videos on their web sites, along with a print version. NBC4 was the only site without video, but you can read its account here. What was fascinating was the different tone each newscast took, what they chose to focus on and whom they chose to interview.

KTLA’s coverage was by far the absolute worst in terms of corporate bias and tone. The narrative was just downright snarky. The station, which is owned by the struggling Tribune Co. (parent of the Los Angeles Times), broadcast two reports – one during the actual protest, and a longer report later on. Most of the focus was on how motorists were inconvenienced, and less on the grievances of the protesters. It’s as if the producers were more concerned about wealthy entertainment and banking executives who work at Century Plaza being aggravated, rather than whether the janitors were getting a raw deal. Watch the broadcasts below:

FOX 11 was more sympathetic to the janitors, choosing to focus on a woman who participated in the hunger strike. But inexplicably, the focus then turned to an interview with TV sports commentator and former basketball star, John Salley. Salley just happened to be in the area, but what does the point of view of an athletic personality add to the story?

ABC7 and CBS2/KCAL9 did the best in terms of fairness and tone. Each station interviewed more of the protesters, in addition to obtaining statements in response from the janitorial firm. It was good to see that both broadcasts allowed the participants to clearly get their messages across, and that both noted the rally was peaceful. Interestingly, though, ABC7 chose to talk to the police, whereas CBS2/KCAL9 did not. CBS2 doesn’t allow for video embeds on blogs, so you can watch the video by clicking here. The ABC7 video is below:

Sylvia MooreIt was great to see a workers protest covered in the news and across multiple outlets. Labor news gets short shrift in the mainstream press nowadays. But I wonder: Would the media have showed up at all if no one was blocking the streets?

Sylvia Moore

Reposted with permission from the LA Media Reform.


  1. Frank says

    Once hired, is it implied that you have a job for life?

    Way back in the Depression, there were photos of men leaning on shovels: doing no useful work while receiving Gov’t pay.
    Today, is a private company expected to do the same?

  2. Luke Easter says

    Colonize Planet Mars For What?

    12/06/06, Scientists are elated because there are,
    Signs of water flowing on the Planet Mars,
    This according to their community is by far,
    The most exciting thing since the forming of stars.

    However, don’t get on your high horse too soon,
    First mankind has to spend time on the Moon,
    Then again, here’s my opinion for what it’s worth,
    We should be more concerned about life on Earth.

    War in a foreign land that many are calling lost,
    Way too many limbs, lives, with billions as the cost,
    Looks like not just the soldiers are coming home blind,
    Mars is front-page news, what’s going on in the mind?

    MS, autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS but first it’s HIV,
    Not just confined to monkeys but humans in every country,
    No cure, arm and a leg for medicine only to slow it down,
    Poorest nations can’t dig graves fast enough & bury underground.

    I dare not talk about crime because that’s a sermon on it’s own,
    Finally, in Ohio an investigation into fraudulent mortgage loans,
    Cleveland Clinic makes billions but yearly taxes that do not pay,
    Something about being a non-profit organization, or so they say.

    Certainly tops in medical research and they are health care pioneers,
    Money making staffers reside outside the city because crime they fear,
    Then no one worth anything wants their child enrolled in public schools,
    Guess the powers that be, in city hall are just robots without any clues.

    CEO’s in salary, bonuses and buyouts are paid in dollars & stocks billions,
    Workers laid off, lost pensions, no health care benefits, number in the millions,
    Reverend Rodgers and Deacon Anderson are two at Good Hope Baptist Church,
    Working over 75 years collectively losing everything, who cares if they were hurt?

    Where is the President, Congress, The Senate or members of The House?
    Snubbing their noses like great big elephants while being effective as a mouse,
    They promised if we’d vote for them, these politicians would have our back,
    And this was long before anyone had ever heard of a desert called Iraq.

    On this side of the, “free world” we’ve spent billions to bail out banks,
    While in, “less friendly” nations we’ll spend billions on guns and tanks,
    To close the economic gap for them as ours widens don’t you think?
    Our domestic beer vs. Cuban cigars & imported Cognac they drink.

    Congressional approval signed by the President they pass a bill to rob,
    Real hard working Americans like janitors protesting loss of their jobs,
    We complain to our leaders but they have nepotism from Uncle Sam,
    Say what you want but our votes meaning nothing it’s all just a scam.

    I wonder how or what will be said in the upper echelon conversation,
    Most can only imagine the steps necessary in making a reservation,
    “Oh you should have been there, we danced graciously amid the stars, ”
    “Then we dined on starship shrimp & lobster, at the Hilton on Planet Mars.”

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