SF Business Times Accuses Chronicle of Pro-Union Bias

by Randy Shaw on June 30, 2011

Is the San Francisco Chronicle too pro-union in its coverage? The San Francisco Business Times thinks so, with writer Chris Rauber accusing the Chronicle’s Victoria Colliver of writing an article that reads like a “union leaflet.” Colliver’s June 28 article reported that “Kaiser Permanente plans to raise rates more than 10 percent starting Friday for about 300,000 Californians enrolled in plans offered through small businesses.” What troubled Rauber was that the story noted that the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) wrote a letter to Governor Brown requesting that he instruct the Department of Managed Health Care to investigate whether the rate hikes were excessive, in light of the $921 million in profits Kaiser reported in the first quarter of the year, and its reserves of over $12 billion. Apparently accustomed to unions being ignored on health care cost hikes, Rauber now sees the Chronicle as another In These Times and Colliver as akin to Mary “Mother” Jones.

“The Chron story gave very little background or explanation of the news,” Rauber complained, “quoting anonymous Kaiser officials briefly, while giving center stage to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which is fighting with the Service Employees International Union over the right to represent tens of thousands of Kaiser workers.” Colliver “doesn’t mention that inter-union turmoil,” Rauber protests, characterizing the article as “a very odd story that could have used considerably more context.”

Much the same could be said about Rauber’s accusations. Colliver notes clearly in the third sentence of her story that NUHW is in contract negotiations with Kaiser, which is indisputably a relevant fact in explaining the context of NUHW’s letter. As for SEIU, is it possible that Colliver makes no mention of the internecine dispute because it has exactly nothing to do with the story?

And if NUHW planted the story with the Chronicle, as Rauber seems to believe, how exactly does calling out Kaiser for fleecing policyholders serve to discredit SEIU? Rauber offers no explanation.

Rauber’s article, “Peeking behind the curtain: San Francisco Chronicle report on Kaiser rate hikes reads too much like a union leaflet,” reflects a troubling bias against unions, NUHW in particular, or both. In attempting to intimidate Colliver and the Chronicle from writing future stories that include NUHW’s perspective, it is Rauber’s agenda that deserves further scrutiny.

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