Big Three Hype Fast Food Workers' Protests; Censor SEIU's Involvement
On Thursday, ABC, CBS, and NBC's morning newscasts all spotlighted how "fast food workers across the country are holding strikes to demand higher wages," but failed to point out the involvement of left-leaning groups in organizing the protests. ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning featured spokesmen from the "Fast Food Forward" movement, but didn't include their respective involvement in the SEIU and a successor organization to ACORN.
The ABC and CBS morning shows also slanted towards the protesters by a two-to-one margin in the number of soundbites from the protesters and liberal supporters, versus opponents of raising the minimum wage. While NBC's Today didn't feature any of the protest organizers, the show played three clips from a fast food employee and a protest supporter, versus two from opponents. [MP3 audio available here; video clips below the jump]
ABC's Josh Elliott did lead into correspondent Rebecca Jarvis' report by hinting at the other side of the wage debate: "Thousands of workers at fast food chains, such as McDonald's and Burger King, are walking off the job today – demanding pay raises. But the questions this morning, then – how much would an increase in their pay end up costing you, the consumer?"
Jarvis picked up where Elliott left off: "A typical fast food worker in America makes about $9 an hour. But even those who support their efforts to increase their wages say...if they were to increase those wages, that would increase the price of fast food by 20 percent." She soon played a clip from Jonathan Westin of "Fast Food Forward", who asserted that "until we actually lift workers up, and then, give them wages they can live off of, there won't be a true recovery from the greatest recession since the Depression."
The ABC correspondent failed to mention that Westin is the executive director of New York Communities for Change, which is the "renamed and reorganized descendent of the now defunct ACORN", as Commentary's Bethany Mandel pointed out in a July 30, 2013 item.
Later in the segment, Jarvis noted how "protesters say a typical cashier or cook makes less than $19,000 a year – about a thousand dollars below the federal poverty line for a family of three. They want the minimum wage more than doubled, from $7.25 an hour to fifteen. And now, the President is joining the conversation." She then played a clip from President Obama, who bemoaned how "there are...retail salespeople who work their tails off – and are still living at or barely above poverty." She didn't include any soundbites from conservatives/Republicans and/or the business community during her report.
Correspondent Terrell Brown zeroed in on the plight of one of the protesters in Illinois – Nancy Salgado – during his report on CBS This Morning. Brown featured three clips from Salgado, as well another from her fellow demonstrators. Like Jarvis, he turned to a "Fast Food Forward" leader – Kendall Fells (pictured at right). But like his colleague at ABC, the ABC journalist omitted that Fells is a paid employee of SEIU whose earned six figures in 2010.
Brown did follow his soundbite from Fells with two from the National Restaurant Association's Angelo Amador. He also got the closest to mentioning the left-of-center political affiliation of the protest organizers: "The National Restaurant Association, the industry's lobbying group, says walkouts, like those planned for today, are stunts staged by union-paid protesters, and most industry employees are happy."
Kristine Marsh and Julia Seymour of the MRC's Business and Media Institute documented how the Big Three networks slanted towards the SEIU-backed protesters when they held demonstrations during the summer of 2013.
The full transcripts of the segments from ABC's Good Morning America; CBS This Morning; and NBC's Today on Thursday:
07:07 am EST
ABC – Good Morning America
[ABC News Graphic: "Wage Protests"]
JOSH ELLIOTT: Thousands of workers at fast food chains, such as McDonald's and Burger King, are walking off the job today – demanding pay raises. But the questions this morning, then – how much would an increase in their pay end up costing you, the consumer?
ABC's Rebecca Jarvis [is] here in new York with some insight there. Good morning to you, Rebecca.
REBECCA JARVIS: Hi, Josh, and good morning to you. A typical fast food worker in America makes about $9 an hour. But even those who support their efforts to increase their wages say that that would increase – if they were to increase those wages – that would increase the price of fast food by 20 percent, if these workers were to get what they want.
[ABC News Graphic: "Fast Food Workers Demand Raise: Protests Planned In 100 Cities"]
JARVIS (voice-over): Protests across the country this morning – scenes like this in New York, expected in 100 cities, including Chicago, Denver, Houston and L.A. – with fast food restaurant employees walking out of work, and on to picket lines.
JONATHAN WESTIN, "FAST FOOD FORWARD": Until we actually lift workers up, and then, give them wages they can live off of, there won't be a true recovery from the greatest recession since the Depression.
JARVIS: Protesters say a typical cashier or cook makes less than $19,000 a year – about a thousand dollars below the federal poverty line for a family of three. They want the minimum wage more than doubled, from $7.25 an hour to fifteen. And now, the President is joining the conversation.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And we know that there are airport workers and fast food workers and nurse assistants and retail salespeople who work their tails off – and are still living at or barely above poverty. (audience applauds)
JARVIS: The National Association of Restaurants (sic) fighting back – saying, 'Dramatic increases in starting wage will increase prices for restaurant meals and lead to fewer jobs created.'
JARVIS (on-camera): And one of the reasons you're seeing scenes like this all across the country is that restaurants have been one of the few places to show the biggest signs of job growth since the great recession. So, more and more American families, Josh, are having to rely on those jobs just to get by.
ELLIOTT: All right. Rebecca Jarvis in New York, thank you for that.
07:12 am EST
NBC – Today
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, your fast food may not be quite so fast today. Workers are scheduled to walk off the job in a hundred cities across the country. The movement is a part of a growing campaign to push for higher wages.
NBC's John Yang is outside a McDonald's in Chicago where protesters are gathering this morning. John, good morning to you.
JOHN YANG: Good morning, Savannah. The crowd here [is] growing in numbers and volume just in the last few minutes. Nationwide, organizers hope will be – this will be their biggest day yet in their campaign to focus on wages that they say are way too low.
[NBC News Graphic: "Breaking News: Fast Food Strike In 100 Cities: Battle Over Wages Leads To Walk Off"]
YANG: Amber Stallings is the single mom of a 2-year-old, and has a second on the way. Trying to support a growing family on $8.40 an hour at Wendy's means tough choices.
AMBER STALLINGS: I need new work pants and work shoes. And then, I have to decide – like, am I going to get that, or am I going to – get my bus fare to go to work?
YANG: Today, from coast-to-coast, organizers are staging strikes by fast food workers in 102 cities, and support rallies in 82 more – demanding a $15 an hour wage. (clip of protesters at a Hardee's restaurant)
Industry officials say that would be a job killer.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Doubling the base wage – the starting wage, and, of course – would dramatically increase the cost of operations for the – for the business owner. Prices would have to go up, and less jobs would be created. (clip of protesters chanting, "Make our wages super-sized!")
YANG: The federal minimum wage – $7.25 an hour – hasn't been raised in four years.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: You should probably have [the] minimum wage actually raised, you know? It's – not just fast food workers.
YANG: For some, 15 bucks is too much.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: If it's counter service, then maybe, it's not worth 15 [dollars] an hour.
YANG: Amber Stallings needs food stamps and Medicaid to get by. She says she and her coworkers are the foundation of a multi-billion dollar industry.
STALLINGS: If it wasn't for workers and the shift managers and things like that, there wouldn't be a business, 'cause there would be nobody to run the store.
YANG (on-camera): If you had that extra money, what difference would it make?
STALLINGS: We probably wouldn't have everything we wanted, but we wouldn't be struggling.
YANG (live): Here, as in – there are other cities around the country, these protesters will be moving from restaurant to restaurant all day long. Savannah?
GUTHRIE: All right. John Yang on the protest lines in Chicago, thank you.
08:04 am EST
CBS This Morning
NORAH O'DONNELL: President Obama is calling for a hike in the national minimum wage. On Wednesday, the President said that growing income inequality is the defining challenge of our time – while this morning, fast food workers across the country are holding strikes to demand higher wages.
Terrell Brown is outside a McDonald's in New York City. Terrell, good morning.
TERRELL BROWN: Norah, good morning to you. There were about 200 workers out here earlier this morning. They've since dispersed and moved on to other locations. But this is where it all started last year – New York City. It's expected to spread to 200 cities today, as workers push for higher wages – $15 an hour – more than twice the national minimum wage.
[CBS News Graphic: "Minimum Wage War: Low-Paid Fast Good Workers Striking Across U.S."]
NANCY SALGADO, MCDONALD'S EMPLOYEE (chanting at August 1, 2013 protest): Can't take it no more! Can't take it no more!
BROWN (voice-over): Nancy Salgado makes $8.25 an hour for the work she does at a Chicago-area McDonald's.
SALGADO: How much is six plus zero?
BROWN: The 27-year-old mother of two has been employed at the fast food chain's franchises for the last ten years, and earns the minimum wage in Illinois.
SALGADO: I don't have health insurance. I don't own a car. I don't own – cable. I have a cell phone because I need it. Oh, I didn't think I was going to be living like this. It's hard. (clip of protesters chanting "Strike!")
BROWN: So this summer, Salgado joined a growing movement of low-paid workers, demanding retailers and fast food chains pay employees at least $15 an hour.
KENDALL FELLS, FAST FOOD FORWARD ORGANIZING DIRECTOR: Workers felt like $15 (an hour) would give them enough money to survive – just get food, keep a roof over their head, and get clothes on their back.
BROWN: Opponents say such an increase could lead companies to cut their workforce, and rely more on automated labor.
ANGELO AMADOR, NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION: You cannot just be an employee and demand a salary based on your needs. You know, salaries have to be based on the economy, and what the economy in the area can bare.
BROWN: The National Restaurant Association, the industry's lobbying group, says walkouts, like those planned for today, are stunts staged by union-paid protesters, and most industry employees are happy.
AMADOR: We have plenty of opportunities for people to come in – part-time, a few hours – and prove themselves, and move up the ladder.
BROWN: But workers like Salgado believe the fight for higher wages is the best opportunity for a better life. She plans to join the strikes today, and she isn't giving up on her $15 goal.
SALGADO: I'm going to fight until I do, and I believe we're going to get it. We are going to get it. When you fight for something and you believe in it, you're going to get it.
BROWN (on-camera): And Nancy Salgado said she was paid to protest earlier this year, but said that organizers provided her that money to make up for a lost day of work. Charlie, Norah, Gayle?
GAYLE KING: All right. Terrell Brown, thank you.
— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.