The Teamsters and their allies continue to attempt to smear The NewStandardâ€™s reporting. Here we present a follow-up letter by union press secretary Galen Munroe, then a response from TNS staff.
I appreciate your responses and your opinions.
There was one significant detail concerning the statistics Michelle cites that Fred McLuckie did in fact make her aware of during the interview. (I only bring this up now because I wasn't able to confirm with Fred until yesterday.) The DHS representative testified in front of the House committee that there were an estimated 40,000 violations within the commercial zone in Texas that were never reported. According to his testimony, the inspectors just decided to stop submitting the violations. How accurate can those statistics be? How many unreported violations were never discovered?
There are giant, gaping holes in this system and that is the problem â€“ not racial bias. I would suggest TNS take a closer look at those issues. You say you didn't find any data to support the safety claims and that the story was originally supposed to be about those concerns. So answer this question: How did you go from a story on safety claims to a one that questions whether there is a racial bias? The one quote you cite to support this idea seems to be an answer almost begrudgingly given. It is a disservice to everyone fighting this pilot program, from members of Congress to our own union members, to even suggest that this is about the color of the drivers' skin rather than the trucks they are forced to drive.
I can't help but feel that this is just an example of irresponsible journalism.
â€“Galen Munroe, Press Secretary
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Mr. Munroe noted a "significant detail" that he believes we should not have left out of our story: the 40,000 traffic violations cited against Mexican trucks within the Texas commercial zone, which he says were never reported by the government. The article did in fact note the shortcomings in the DOTâ€™s reporting system for such violations.
But we believe the data cited here would not have been informative in this article, and in Mr. Munroeâ€™s letter, its presentation is patently misleading. The source provided no comparable data for US-based trucks and drivers, or even details on the nature or timeframe of those citations, making it nearly impossible to place these statistics in the context of overall highway-safety enforcement. (Also, the source was not a DHS official, as Mr. Munroe asserts, but rather the DOT's inspector general. The congressional testimony is here for your review. We linked to the full text of the Senate testimony in the sources list attached to our article, as we did for the statements of Mr. Hoffa and Public Citizen.)
If we were on a mission to make Mexican trucks and truckers look good compared to their US-based counterparts, we could easily have cited accident figures, which make US trucks look bad compared to the Mexican vehicles that have driven in restricted zones on our side of the border. Even adjusted for relative numbers of vehicles, US trucks are involved in a disproportionately high share of overall accidents. But we knew reporting that would not have been fair, since US trucks drive longer routes inside the US, possibly on more-dangerous roadways. We werenâ€™t pursuing an agenda â€“ so we didnâ€™t bother going there.
But this gets to the crux of the matter. Our critics are challenging what is possibly the most pro-labor general-scope news organization in the United States, as if we set out to exonerate Mexican trucks and drivers while vilifying Teamsters and other critics of the proposal in question. Nothing could be further from the truth, as anyone can see by reviewing our archive of 306 labor-related articles.
Mr. Munroe asks, "How did you go from a story on safety claims to one that questions whether there is a racial bias?" Itâ€™s called journalism, sir. We followed the story to its logical conclusions, analyzing the unionâ€™s arguments alongside hard data and viewpoints seldom heard in the mainstream debate on this issue. Journalism simply cannot rely on he-said/she-said accounts of issues. We check our sourcesâ€™ sources. And when we did that, in this case, we found a tremendous amount of obfuscation taking place. And we called the Teamsters out on it.
Understandably, that must sting a bit.
No partisan ever likes it when the facts of a case do not substantiate their position. Thatâ€™s where good journalists come in. We didnâ€™t set out to prove anything about safety records, so we were open to the story changing. And we didnâ€™t set out to protect the Teamstersâ€™ reputation, so when we reflected on the potential effects and biases of the Teamstersâ€™ argument, we saw that protectionism, xenophobia and racism could well play a part.
As for the quote from Dan La Botz, which insinuated these biases, we reject Mr. Munroeâ€™s charge that La Botz gave his answer "begrudgingly." Indeed, he wrote a letter conratulating us for not accepting the standard line, shared by labor and anti-immigration sources alike. And Mr. La Botzâ€™s previous writing on related matters bears out that he needed no pressure from us to level the charges he did, and that we used his words appropriately.
Regarding the alleged "disservice" we have committed against "everyone fighting the pilot program" â€“ again, we take exception. It is our job to provide a service to the public, not to one side of any controversial issue. Maybe if youâ€™re in the business of hiring journalists to write sympathetic articles precisely intended to bolster your own case, it is frustrating when someone comes along and takes a look at more than cherry-picked anecdotal evidence and sees a more-complex problem.
Mr. Monroe encourages us to look at the "giant, gaping holes" in the system. This makes us wonder whether he read the article. It is precisely those holes in the US system which led us to report the article as we did. But unlike the Teamsters, who only want to point out how those holes put the American public at risk from Mexican trucks and truckers, we found it necessary to note that those holes also affect US trucks and truckers. It is this inclusion of additional evidence about holes in the system that seems to have the Teamsters most upset because it highlights giant, gaping holes in their own arguments.
Since we are not a partisan or nationalistic news organization, we couldnâ€™t turn our back on the evidence we found just because we sympathize strongly with American truckers. Unlike the so-called International Brotherhood of Teamsters, we feel an obligation not to shun Mexican truckers. Indeed, we felt it important to relay Mr. La Botzâ€™s and othersâ€™ concern that the Teamsters are missing a golden opportunity to actually operate in solidarity with the Mexican truckers about whose safety and working conditions the American union espouses tremendous concern.
The unionâ€™s official line, after all, actually touts the idea that Mexican drivers lack the rights, standards and union backing supposedly enjoyed by their American counterparts. Critics point out that while the campaign for closed borders is politically opportune for its membership, the organizationâ€™s purported empathy with Mexican drivers has translated into little actual impact in terms of grassroots outreach to those most in need of solidarity.
Over the years, the corporate media has taken it upon itself to smear and slander the labor movement â€“ the Teamsters in particular â€“ nearly every chance they get. But here comes The NewStandard, which is so heavily unionized its workers actually run the entire operation without bosses â€“ and one critical article gets us blacklisted, while CNN and the New York Times and Fox News get all the interviews they can malign (on the rare occasions they pay any attention to labor). That speaks volumes.