MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall invited a Washington Post reporter on her program on Monday to discuss the plight of striking fast food workers who have taken to the streets to demand higher wages. But Hall did not need the reporter to make a point or even illuminate the issue of striking minimum wage workers. In a segment that stopped just short of advocating for the full unionization of fast food workers, the Washington Post reporter spent the better part of his spot on MSNBC agreeing with assertions made by the MSNBC anchor.
Hall began the segment by featuring a series of striking fast food workers and playing a portion of the audio of President Barack Obama speaking to New York Times reporters about persistent problems of poverty and inequality that have become a feature of his term in office.
Hall began the interview with Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher by setting the table:
“Let’s first discuss this movement,” Hall began. “Here you’ve got about a dozen cities — major cities, as I pointed out — you have these workers who say they want wages of $15 an hour. This is what they’re calling for. We heard it from one worker; she said, ‘I don’t have kids, but many of these people have children, they’re working double jobs and ends are not meeting. They’re not even coming close.’”
Fletcher agreed with Hall’s characterization of the striking fast food workers as a “movement” and added that there is no economic law which stipulates that food service industries must be relatively low paying occupations.
“There’s nothing that intrinsic about restaurant work or fast food restaurant work that says it has to be low paying,” Fletcher said. “These are huge industries, and they want to point this out to people.”
Forgive me for addressing this issue in exceedingly simple terms, but that appears to be what is required: Much the same could be said of just about any industry which pays its most expendable, entry-level employees the lowest possible wages that it can negotiate. Less expendable employees demand more and receive more in compensation. This is how firms retain nonexpendable talent in a competitive marketplace.
Hall continued to interview herself regarding her thoughts and feelings about fast food workers and the minimum wage:
When you look at even just some of the advancement — and we’re talking about, in 2012, the estimate was 2.9 million people, that’s what the labor statistics says, are working in food prep and service workers, including fast food. But, when you look at even, you know, the ability to move up the ladder doesn’t exist with many of these workers. So there’s no – there’s not even, Michael, a growth potential for so many of these people.
“I think that’s essentially right,” Fletcher predictably said. Rather than ceded the segment to Hall and let her continue to pontificate on labor issues in the United States, he graciously offered some thoughts on unionization so that this segment could shift entirely from imparting information to pure advocacy.
Fletcher pointed out that part-time, minimum wage jobs are among the fastest growing sectors of America’s economy today. Of course, this is happening for no discernible reason whatsoever. We may never know why the low-wage economy is growing while the skilled labor market is stagnant. Certainly, no sweeping reform law could be to blame for this development.
Fletcher and Hall proceeded to lament the decline of private sector unions in the United States. They note that, while unionization has declined relative to foreign company’s ability to compete with American workers, food preparation “cannot be outsourced” so the federal government can increase the costs associated with food service labor with abandon.
Neither seemed to take into account how a price increase on a product – an phenomenon which must almost always accompanies increasing labor costs – might negatively impact the rate of demand for that product.
Hall should have informed her guest that this entire conversation was moot because, according to Daily Beast business reporter Dan Gross’ analysis on Friday’s episode of MSNBC’s The Cycle, the “private economy is almost too good.” That was, in Hall’s defense, Gross was nakedly accusing Republicans of dishonest motives rather than lionizing martyrs for the cause of progressivism.
Mediaite’s Andrew Kirell tackled the problems associated with raising the federal minimum wage in February after Obama nodded in the direction of pursuing such a policy during his State of the Union address. Kirell detailed why such well-intentioned but ultimately misguided policies actually do far more damage to minimum wage workers by reducing the amount of opportunities available to them. The negative impact a minimum wage hike would have on employment is also partially the reason why the president forgets to mention this policy preference outside of campaign-style speeches designed to rally his base of supporters.
But don’t tell any of this to Tamron Hall. She’s on a roll.
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