Confirmed: Union-Bashing Right-Wing Media Stars Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly Are AFL-CIO Union-Affiliated Members
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When it comes to the Wisconsin union fights, right-wing pundits Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have a couple of things in common. For starters, have all voiced their opposition to the plight of public employee unions in the state.
On Feb. 18, Limbaugh said on his radio program, "We are either on the side of the Wisconsin protesters or we are on the side of our country." Hannity has featured several guests critical of the union and its supporters, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, on his Fox News television and radio shows.
On the Feb. 18 edition of "The O'Reilly Factor," O'Reilly stated, "Governments can't afford to operate" because of "union wages and benefits." But it turns out that opposing workers' rights isn't the only thing these blowhards have in common.
As it turns out, all three of them belong to the American Federation Television and Radio Artists union (AFTRA), which is the AFL-CIO affiliate for television and broadcast workers.
Yes, you read that right. While Hannity, O'Reilly and Limbaugh have been railing against union workers in Wisconsin, all three of them belong to an AFL-CIO affiliate union.
A report voted to the front page of Reddit Friday claimed that Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly were union members, as well as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter. Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin called it the "stupid lie of the week," insisting that neither she nor the "other Fox News personalities being accused of 'hypocrisy' belong to the union." As one might expect, Malkin didn't know what she was talking about and the liberals were right (she herself, as just a frequent guest on the network, is not a member of the union).
A representative from Beck's camp denied the claim, but a source within AFTRA confirmed to AlterNet Friday that O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Hannity were indeed union members.
When asked, AFTRA reps wouldn't state whether the three were members, but it did say in an official statement (see the entire statement below):
"[N]otwithstanding the union's publicly stated position on a given issue, including the attack on public sector union members currently unfolding in Wisconsin and elsewhere around the nation AFTRA fully supports the First Amendment right to free speech of all Americans, including that of any AFTRA member who wishes to express an opinion that may differ from that of AFTRA."
AFTRA also said in a separate statement that some staff at local Fox affiliate stations are represented by the union. According to its Web site, AFTRA "is a national labor union representing over 70,000 performers, journalists and other artists working in the entertainment and news media."
It "negotiates and enforces over 300 collective bargaining agreements that guarantee minimum (but never maximum) salaries, safe working conditions and health and retirement benefits." Republicans in Wisconsin voted early Friday to strip public union workers of their collective bargaining rights.
In the same segment where O'Reilly blamed government financial woes on union benefits, he not only said he was an AFTRA member, but that his membership had benefited him in the past. "On a personal note, I'm a member of a union, AFTRA, and when I was working at 'Inside Edition' some years ago, the King World company tried to renege on pension benefits," said O'Reilly. "AFTRA took them to court and the case was settled. If the shop had been non-union, we might have been stiffed."
Multiple attempts to reach representatives for Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly for comment were not returned.
Here's the full text of the two statements AFTRA sent AlterNet:
"As a matter of policy, AFTRA does not reveal whether or not an individual is a member of AFTRA unless specifically authorized to do so by that individual. We take very seriously our members' right to privacy in this and in other regards. As the unfortunate situation in Wisconsin makes clear, all too often union members are the target of vicious attacks either from their employer (or prospective employer) or the public, and it is the union's responsibility to protect our members to the greatest extent possible.
"Furthermore and notwithstanding the union's publicly stated position on a given issue, including the attack on public sector union members currently unfolding in Wisconsin and elsewhere around the nation (click here to read AFTRA's statement of support), AFTRA fully supports the First Amendment right to free speech of all Americans, including that of any AFTRA member who wishes to express an opinion that may differ from that of AFTRA. As the union which represents the people who entertain and inform America, we do not support or engage in the censorship of free speech. The on-air personalities, and other on- and off-air employees, including anchors, hosts, correspondents, etc., who work at Fox News are not employed under the terms of an AFTRA collective bargaining agreement since, unlike with other national news organizations such as ABC and CBS News, AFTRA does not have a national collective bargaining agreement with Fox News. AFTRA does, however, maintain collective bargaining agreements with a number of local Fox News affiliate stations around the country and members who work at those stations would be covered by an AFTRA contract.