Written by Kristine Marsh and Julia A. Seymour
Networks downplay extremism as left continues push for 'living wage'.
Wages have been big news in 2013, although the battle over a “living wage” has gotten little attention even as left-wing activists protest in cities across the country.
President Barack Obama called for an increase in the $7.25 minimum wage to $9.00 an hour in his 2013 State of the Union address. The networks uncritically reported that agenda item in several brief reports following the speech. CBS did air a couple of reports that at least mentioned business opposition to such a plan, although they also included an economist who claimed such an increase would help the poor.
Conservative economists take a very different view. The Heritage Foundation has explained that “The problem with minimum-wage increases is that they reduce access to these entry-level jobs. It is a basic tenet of economics that when the price of something rises, people buy less of it. This is as true of businesses hiring unskilled workers as it is of Americans buying household goods. Heritage economist James Sherk finds that ‘two-thirds of all recent studies show that raising the minimum wage reduces jobs.’”
But the left really wants it something far more drastic than a $1.75 an hour mandatory increase in the minimum wage proposed by the president.
For years liberals have been pushing the idea of a “living wage,” in some cases demanding $15 an hour: more than twice the federal minimum wage. Fast-food workers who recently staged walkouts in major cities from Detroit to St. Louis, and Milwaukee were demanding $15 an hour. They are also demanding the right to unionize. The movement spread after “Fast Food Forward” protests in New York City began eight months ago.
According to left-wing media outlet Salon on Aug. 14, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is “the key player” behind the fast food strikes and protests will escalate in the next week and a half. SEIU is known for its bullying and thuggery.
The fast food protests, the president’s own calls for a higher minimum wage and the D.C. city council’s demand that Wal-Mart pay employees a “living wage” if it wants to build more stores in the district all made the news in recent months. The law would have selectively forced “large retailers” such as Wal-Mart to pay a minimum of $12.50 per hour.
Yet in the past six months (Feb. 6 - Aug. 6), ABC, CBS and NBC news programs have barely mentioned the words “living wage” and focused on the minimum wage issue 10 times more often. Twenty news briefs and stories mentioned increasing the “minimum wage,” while only two included the terms “living wage.” The drastic nature of living wage laws and the far left connections of the activists who call for them went unreported.
Thom Hartmann is a liberal and a highly rated radio talk show host, ranking number eight in the top 12 most listened to talk radio hosts in the August edition of Talkers Magazine. His radio program is part of the Media Consortium, which is a progressive media echo chamber that got $675,000 from George Soros since 2000.
On Aug. 8, Hartmann reacted to the fast food protests and lashed out at Wal-Mart saying, “A living wage isn’t just something corporations owe their workers, it’s something corporations owe America. If a corporation won’t pay a living wage, then it shouldn’t have the right to exist. Period. End of story.” Talk about extreme.
But that kind of sentiment isn’t what was reported on ABC, CBS and NBC. NBC “Nightly News” was very sympathetic to fast food workers on June 14.
Correspondent Natalie Morales and Kevin Tibbles bemoaned the hardships of the fast food workers in a story about “poverty in America. She said, “You might be surprised to learn who some of these folks are what it takes for them to feed their families.” Tibbles interviewed 56-year-old fast food worker Amy Crawford and 44-year-old Tyree Johnson, who were joining the protests, but no where in the story did NBC point out the huge wage increase being demanded. The only hint that $15 an hour was being fought for was on signs that protesters held up in B-roll footage.
Crawford complained that “We can’t afford to live on what we make,” although the report showed her in an apartment which appeared to be very nice. Reporter Kevin Tibbles sympathized with both of them saying most people live their lives “unaware that worker may be struggling to put food on his or her own table.”
Following the president’s announcement that he wanted the minimum wage raised, ABC pitted the situation of a “high school grad who couldn’t afford college” against Senate Republicans opposed to the hike because of its economic impact. No economic experts were included in that report.
Since the networks have barely mentioned the living wage idea, it is no surprise that they have not portrayed its left-wing origins and supports. The living wage concept was a phrase created by the left that is often repeated by labor unions and liberal activists. One of the lefty groups that has been backing living wage legislation for years is the National Employment Law Project (NELP).
Since 2000, NELP has been given more than $1 million ($1,020,000) by liberal billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations.
This labor movement also has direct ties to left-wing groups like New York Communities for Change – NYCC: the reorganized remnant of the disgraced community organizing group ACORN. ACORN made headlines in 2011 for paying protesters to appear Occupy Wall Street and has had other shady dealings including voter registration fraud and hiring felons.
The director of the NYCC is also the director of Fast Food Forward. And they are engaging in the same class warfare rhetoric and tactics that ACORN and left-wing darling Occupy Wall Street did.
Just like Occupy Wall Street, protesters have argued that CEOs make far too much money and therefore should be able to increase the wages paid to entry-level employees.
Although the networks have promoted increased minimum wages in the past, they have not yet openly begun to push for living wages. But by failing to show the extreme demands of living wage activists and explain the consequences of such policies, they’re helping the left. Non-network personalities have been much bolder including PBS’s Tavis Smiley who said in February 2013, declared that he hated the words minimum wage and said, “It ought to be a living wage, not a minimum wage ...”
From the broadcast news networks’ depiction of Fast Food Forward, you would believe the recent protests were peaceful and dignified displays. In reality, some of these protests are more like immature children throwing a temper tantrum, in line with the same kind of outrageous behavior of Occupy Wall Street.
When these protests began in November 2012, workers carried some of the exact same signs as the protestors did during Occupy Wall Street. The Christian Science Monitor reported on the relationship between OWS and Fast Food Forward on July 30 quoting Hilary Klein, director of Make the Road New York, a community advocacy group with offices throughout the city. She told them, “The Occupy movement created sort of a consciousness, a political space to talk about income inequality, and these workers really relate to the idea of the 99 percent.”
Klein also told the Christian Science Monitor, “So I think there has been a real upsurge in low-wage organizing in general since [OWS].”
In Seattle on Aug. 1, wage protesters blocked rush-hour traffic by sitting in the middle of the street and refusing to move until police had to arrest them.
On the Aug. 12 Fox Business Network show “Varney & Co.” guest host Charles Payne explained that at a recent walkout, protesters suddenly got up and shouted rudely that the restaurant sucked and complained that they weren’t getting paid. This was while patrons were in the middle of eating lunch at an upscale New York City restaurant.
Fox Business Network journalist Liz MacDonald further explained that protesters employ not just ugly and immature displays, but also illegal, taxpayer funded tactics, to get what they want.
How? McDonald said, “They’re skirting the law. They’re using what are called labor centers – basically they are non-profits – but in calling themselves labor centers and not union groups they don’t have to report certain things to the Department of Labor, they get to skirt regulations, and they get to basically bully, intimidate management, instead of doing things like collective bargaining with management sitting. So they’re doing bullying tactics on the taxpayer’s nickel. This group got about an estimated $186,000 in taxpayer, excuse me, in grants from 2010-2011.”
Later she noted that the head of the AFL-CIO has called this the “new model for unions.”
Living wage activists don’t seem to understand the economics of what they’re asking. They claim that raising wages would mean no one would have to live in poverty. Unfortunately, this is only wishful thinking, as history shows just the opposite to be true.
In a rare admission, the Feb. 13, “World News with Diane Sawyer,” noted that since 2007, after a minimum wage hike, youth unemployment went up and now is 24 percent, more than three times higher than the national unemployment rate.
Economist Art Carden wrote about the minimum wage for Forbes.com in 2011, saying, “The anti-economic way of thinking sees the minimum wage as a policy whereby those endowed with Goodness and Mercy redistribute possibly ill-gotten wealth from the rich to the poor and protect the weak from exploitation. According to this view, the only reasons to oppose the minimum wage are ideology and sheer meanness.”
In contrast, he noted “The economic way of thinking sees the minimum wage as exactly what it is:interference that destroys wealth, encourages wasteful rent seeking, and hurts exactly the people it is alleged to help. He went on to cite data showing how heavy a burden the minimum wage is on different demographic groups.
Economics professors, Antony Davies shares that view and explains in a Learn Liberty video that “The minimum wage does not force employers to pay a particular wage to every worker; it forces employers to pay a particular wage to every worker they choose to keep.”
The employer pays “zero dollars to the workers that get laid off or who are never hired in the first place.”
So if that’s the result of raising the minimum wage, those consequences would be exacerbated by much higher living wage demands that are several dollars an hour higher.
The Business and Media Institute analyzed ABC, CBS, and NBC news programs from Feb. 6, through Aug. 6 of this year, using the search terms, “minimum wage,” or “living wage,” in Nexis.