Wednesday, May 02, 2007

NYT Human Rights Watch/Wal-Mart Story Omits Pro-Democratic Party Bias, Donations from HRW Staff
I need to state a few things up front before getting into the meat of this post. First, I generally avoid shopping at Wal-Mart and can count the number of times I've purchased something there on one hand. Second, I deplore the company's anti-union and anti-worker policies, and I fully support the Employee Free Choice Act pending before Congress.
My third caveat is that based on a reading of a news release from Human Rights Watch about their report on Wal-Mart's unfair and abusive labor practices, I am pleased HRW devoted much staff time and resources that went into researching and writing the report.
That being said, I am disappointed and concerned, as a news consumer, that the May 1 story in the New York Times by reporter Steven Greenhouse about HRW's Wal-Mart report didn't mention the hundreds of donations totaling thousands of dollars since 1988 made by HRW staff and researchers only to Democratic presidential and congressional candidates, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Party-leaning political action committees. Nor did it reference HRW backing of EFCA.
I believe it would be fair and accurate to say that HRW, based on decades of political donations just to Democrats and the party's affiliates, that this nongovernmental agency is somewhat biased in favor of one U.S. political party. Over the years, I've blogged about how HRW should be above even a hint of partiality toward any political party because human rights advocacy work should not be seen as partisan. Click here and also here for the history of HRW's political contributions.
The release from HRW endorses passage and enactment of EFCA:
A key way to improve protections for worker organizing would be for the US Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and the Bush administration to sign it into law. The EFCA, which passed the US House of Representatives in March and is now under consideration in the Senate, would increase penalties for labor law violations.
EFCA is, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly supported by Democrats in Congress, with only seven GOP cosponsors in the House and zero in the Senate, according to the AFL-CIO web site.
Given HRW staffers extensive contributions only to Democrats and the DNC, and HRW's call for passage of EFCA, I think the New York Times should have noted these facts in its article yesterday. The Times made no mention of EFCA and HRW's endorsement of it.
Interestingly, the Times referenced the following:
Wal-Mart called the [HRW] study “pro-union.” [HRW study author] Ms. Pier said that only $50 of her organization’s $33 million budget came from labor unions.
So the Times did ask HRW about financial support it may have received from unions, while omitting facts about HRW researchers heavily donating to the very pro-Democratic Party and individual Democrats.
Other news outlets, including Business Week and the Associated Press, reported on HRW's endorsement of EFCA, but like the Times, they failed to note HRW employee's giving to Democrats.
Is it asking too much of the Times, Business Week, the AP and the mainstream media to look beyond press releases and statements from spokespersons with HRW and Wal-Mart, to give a fuller picture of the players involved in this story? I think not, but I'm not sure why mainstream reporters failed to dig just a little deeper on HRW before running their stories.

And finally, here is the list of donations from HRW staffers so far for the 2008 presidential and congressional races, which is from the PoliticalMoneyLine:

Allina, Marcia
2/22/2007 $250.00 Bronx, NY 10471
Human Rights Watch/Administration[Contribution]
Becker, Jo
3/30/2007 $250.00 Suffern, NY 10901
Human Rights Watch/human rights adv[Contribution]

Becker, Jo
1/21/2007 $500.00 Suffern, NY 10901
Human Rights Watch/human rights adv[Contribution]

Whitman, Lois
3/28/2007 $1,000.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/Attorney[earmarked contribution]

Whitman, Lois 3/28/2007 $1,000.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/lawyer[earmarked intermediary treasury out]
Whitman, Lois 2/20/2007 $1,500.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/Attorney[Contribution]
Whitman, Lois Ms. 1/26/2007 $1,000.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/Lawyer[Contribution]
Whitman, Lois Q 2/23/2007 $1,000.00 New York, NY 10024
Human Rights Watch/Attorney[Contribution]