Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization, and the UPS Strike

When one hundred and eighty five thousand United Parcel Service (UPS) workers across the United States walked off their jobs in the fall of 1997, working class concerns became front page news. Outside the Box presents a rare, in-depth study of the media representation of this major labor struggle. Deepa Kumar delineates the background and history of the strike, how it emerged within the trajectory of the rise of neoliberal globalization, and how television networks and dominant print media portrayed the event.


OUTSIDE THE BOX HELPS WIN UNION VICTORY IN ONTARIO, CANADA!

Read an article in LABOR NOTES about how workers in one union used Deepa’s book to develop their communications strategy!


BOOK LAUNCH WITH RON CAREY AT SUNY, MANHATTAN

Part One (Ron Carey on the UPS Strike)

Part Two (Kumar on Outside the Box)

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REVIEWS IN ACADEMIC PUBLICATIONS

Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, January 2010

Journalism, 2009

Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, March 2009

New Political Science, 2008

Journal of Communication Inquiry, April 2008

Communication Booknotes Quarterly, 2007

Democratic Communique, 2007

Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 2007

Journal of Communication, 2007

LABOR AND INDEPENDENT PUBLICATIONS

New Labor Forum, 2008

Socialist Worker, 2008

International Socialist Review

Znet

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Praise for Outside The Box

“An outstanding book. All media students, and the rest of us, should read it.”

–JOHN PILGERjournalist and filmmaker, author of Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs

“A brilliant analysis of the UPS strike, its treatment in the media, and how the Teamsters were able to win public support. It offers valuable lessons, and is a must read for everyone in the labor movement.”
–RON CAREY, former president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters

“Drawing on excellent research, this book demonstrates how American workers were able to make a major corporation back down. It documents a turning point in U.S. labor history and breaks new ground in communication research on labor.”
–VINCENT MOSCO, Canada Research Chair in Communication and Society at Queen’s University, Canada

Outside the Box is one of the most in-depth and well-researched studies of media representation of a labor struggle that I have read. Kumar has an exceptional talent for describing complex economic and theoretical notions in a clear and interesting style, and her incorporation of concrete examples is especially useful in analyzing social relations between capital and labor. Finally, her emphasis on resistance provides an important alternative to analyses that too often stress domination alone.”
—DOUGLAS KELLNER, George F. Kneller Chair in the Philosophy of Education at the University of California at Los Angeles

“Deepa Kumar has provided us with a compelling account of the way the U.S. media cover globalization and labor issues. She combines a clear understanding of the structural preferences of the U.S. media with a nuanced appreciation of the possibility for change. This is a smart, highly readable intervention and makes essential reading for those interested in promoting better media coverage within the constraints of a corporate system.”
—JUSTIN LEWIS, professor of communication, Cardiff University, UK

“Inspiring and insightful, Outside the Box tells the story of the Teamsters’ successful strike and media campaign against UPS’s draconian policies. By contextualizing this struggle, Deepa Kumar illuminates how corporations use globalization to reap greater profits at the expense of working people everywhere. In her elegant prose and penetrating analysis, Kumar offers practical suggestions for turning the neoliberal tide.”
—EILEEN R. MEEHAN, Lemuel Heidel Brown Chair in Media and Political Economy, Manship School of Mass Communications, Louisiana State University

“This is a valuable book because serious work on the representation of organised labour is rare in media studies. More valuable, however, is that it shows how media coverage changed in the course of the strike, in response to pressures that the Teamsters and their supporters were able to put on the press and broadcasting. As the author correctly notes, the implications of the fact that collective working class struggle can change media representations are very far reaching, challenging not just uncritical pro-business views of the media but also the more individualised notions of resistance based on deviant consumption of dominant texts. This book has important insights and lessons for all those interested in understanding the role of the media in contemporary capitalism, and for those who are interested in changing that role.”
—COLIN SPARKS, Professor and Director, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster, and author of Media and Globalization

From the publisher:
When 185,000 United Parcel Service (UPS) workers across the United States walked off their jobs in the fall of 1997, working-class concerns became front-page news. Outside the Box presents a rare, in-depth study of the media representation of this major labor struggle. Deepa Kumar delineates the background and history of the strike, how it emerged within the trajectory of the rise of neoliberal globalization, and how television networks and dominant print media portrayed the event.

Through a textual analysis of over 500 news reports, Kumar shows how the strikers pressured a seemingly intractable media system to represent the interests of workers and thereby elevated the class contradictions at the heart of a booming economy. While UPS had made about a billion dollars in profit during the year prior to the strike, its workers had seen paltry wage increases, a steady shift from secure full-time jobs to part-time jobs, and deteriorating working conditions.

The corporate media were forced during this strike, to address working-class issues sympathetically. However, once the strike was over, the media reverted to business as usual. Drawing on her analysis of the strike, Kumar argues that media reform is more complicated than is suggested by liberal media theorists, yet she also argues against the pessimistic currents of radical scholarship that view the media as all-powerful. Instead, she puts forward the case for a dialectical understanding, developing what she calls a “dominance/resistance model” for media analysis.


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