Fox & Friends Sunday falsely claimed that raising the minimum wage would harm female workers, contributing to what they called the "phony war on women" -- but women make up the majority of minimum wage earners, and would significantly benefit from a raise.
On the March 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Anna Kooiman and Independent Women's Forum Executive Director Sabrina Schaeffer pushed several debunked minimum wage myths, falsely claiming that a majority of workers making minimum wage are younger, and suggesting that Democrats who wanted to pay women more were in fact hurting families and workers, contributing to the "phony war on women" (emphasis added):
SCHAEFFER: The reality is a majority of minimum wage earners are working part time. The majority are younger workers 16-24, about 50 percent are, so it's not quite this dire situation where you have the head of households who are not able to care for their families. And there are -- when the price of something goes up, people tend to buy less.
KOOIMAN: So you're saying it's continuing this phony war on women?
SCHAEFFER: Yeah, of course, and you know, this is definitely sort of a legislative aim looking towards looking at the midterm elections but really what would help people is robust job creation because that's what gives workers -- all workers, especially women who need often part time or flexible work arrangements, more opportunities we want more jobs, we want different kinds of jobs, a variety of jobs, we want women who need part-time work to be able to find it, they're going to have better negotiating powers, higher wages when we have a stronger economy overall.
Kooiman concluded the segment by suggesting raising the minimum wage was not a "long-term solution" that would help "job creation."
In fact, women make up the majority of minimum wage earners and would benefit disproportionately from an increase in the minimum wage. ThinkProgress reported that according to research from the Center for American Progress, "two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women," (despite making up only 48.3 percent of the total workforce) making women "far more likely to benefit from a wage increase" than men:
Furthermore, as sixty percent of women are the primary or co-breadwinner in their household, raising the minimum wage would have a significant positive effect for families. The majority of minimum wage workers are adults over the age of 25, and despite Fox's fearmongering, numerous economic studies have shown that increasing the minimum wage would have little effect on jobs and could even increase hiring, while boosting the economy in the short run. Finally, the Economic Policy Institute found that the declining value of the minimum wage was a major contributing factor to growing levels of economic inequality, weakening low-wage workers' bargaining position.
Raising the minimum wage would benefit over 13 million women and 30 million American workers overall -- but that still hasn't distracted Fox News from its long history of campaigning against raising the minimum wage.
Fox News misrepresented economic research while arguing against efforts to extend lapsed long-term unemployment benefits, ignoring the fact that the research itself noted the benefits of extending unemployment insurance to the jobless.
This week, the Senate is expected to vote on a bipartisan bill that would restore benefits to the long-term unemployed. Emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) lapsed in December 2013, and Congress has put forth multiple proposals to restore the program over the past few months.
On the March 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business' Charles Payne was brought on to preview the effort to extend lapsed benefits. Payne touted a Brookings Institution study co-authored by economist and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger, which found that only 10 percent of the long-term unemployed are able to find new employment within a year. Payne used this finding to argue against extending long-term EUC benefits, claiming that the unemployed "have to be pushed back into the job market" and that being unemployed should not be "too comfortable."
If Payne had actually taken time to read the study he cited, he would have found that the authors actually note the exact opposite.
Contrary to Payne's claim that unemployment benefits keep people from entering the job market, Kruger and his co-authors point out that the benefits, which require the unemployed to search for jobs "[have] been shown to induce unemployed workers to stay in the labor force." Indeed, the idea that unemployment insurance somehow suppresses labor participation is a well-worn falsehood, and multiple studies have shown EUC benefits do not discourage job seeking.
Furthermore, while the Fox & Friends segment attempted to paint Krueger's research as an indication that he opposes government efforts to help the unemployed, he recently stated that the government should be more aggressive at preventing people from becoming long-term unemployed.
Fox News dishonestly attacked the solar industry, implying that Yuma, Arizona's unemployment rate is higher than that of Midland, Texas due to the presence of a solar power plant and lack of natural gas or petroleum exploration. However, Yuma and Midland have completely different economic bases, and the Yuma solar plant has been lauded as a success.
MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski highlighted the need for a "national conversation" on the gender wage gap and called on Republicans to either "come to the table" on the issue or "be quiet." Such a turnaround will be difficult while Fox News remains the communications arm of the GOP, as the network has consistently perpetuated sexist rhetoric and dismissed workplace inequality as a "myth" not worth covering.
A recent report from the American Association of University Woman (AAUW) found that, one year out of college, women on average are paid just 82 percent of what men make and noted that the gap tends to grow over time. According to the report, this discrepancy between men and women's earnings has not improved in the past decade. A 2012 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research explained that "[w]omen's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations -- whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women." As Think Progress has reported, women make less than their male peers regardless of their education level, industry, job, or location.
Brzezinski stressed the necessity of promoting a "national conversation" to address these issues, but Fox News and other conservative media have already hijacked the conversation and are undermining the possibility of open debate. Fox's Bill O'Reilly refused to acknowledge the pay gap as a real issue and questioned the point of disucssing it, while Fox's John Stossel has repeatedly attempted to debunk what he describes as "gender myths" like the pay gap. Radio host Rush Limbaugh has dismissed arguments about the pay gap as "tripe" and claimed that wages are only stagnant for people who "don't do good work."
Though Brzezinski noted that the gender wage gap discussion is "rife with so many ways the Republican Party could really help address some of the issues," Republicans face a major hurdle in engaging with such issues while Fox News remains the GOP's communications arm.
A national coalition of organizations has signed a letter to four major broadcast network heads expressing their concern over the failure of broadcast evening news programs to note the public cost of low wages.
A recently released Media Matters report found that over the past year, evening news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS have been largely silent about the burden that low minimum wages place on the financial security of public safety net programs. The report found that from March 1, 2013, through March 10, 2014, the networks only mentioned the reliance of minimum wage workers on federal, state, and local anti-poverty programs such as food assistance and welfare programs eight times, with PBS providing the majority.
22 national organizations that advocate on behalf of the millions of workers that would benefit from a minimum wage increase wrote the heads of the broadcast networks to express their "deep concern" over coverage of "the impact of low minimum wages on hard-working Americans, their families, and our country":
When it comes to growing our economy and improving the livelihoods of workers, it's increasingly imperative that your evening news programs cover the cost of inaction. Because of low wages, many workers in the fast food industry alone -- many of whom make wages at or just above the current minimum wage -- are forced to rely on government assistance to the tune of almost $7 billion annually. Additionally, a recent analysis found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce necessary spending on food stamps by $4.6 billion annually.
Your evening news programs reach millions of Americans every night and frequently set the tone for how this issue is debated at the kitchen table, state legislatures, and the Halls of Congress. We urge you to correct this oversight and hope you will take greater action in the future to ensure that these programs tell the full story. We are happy to meet with you to discuss ways to make your minimum wage coverage more informative.
The full letter can be read below:
Fox News is once again pining for the days when more work came with less pay, claiming that expanding overtime pay protections "undercuts work ethic."
The knee-jerk reaction that amending existing policy to help workers is somehow harmful to the American work ethic is a common theme at the network, and has been brought up to undermine the minimum wage, disparage the Affordable Care Act, and demonize vital assistance programs.
Watch Fox hearken back to a bygone era when worker protections weren't impeding the American Dream:
From the March 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the March 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News host Jon Scott dismissed President Obama's efforts to raise the minimum wage and strengthen overtime pay protections for millions of workers as a distraction from the economy -- an unusual sentiment, given that experts believe both measures would have a stimulative effect on the economy.
On March 13, President Obama used his executive authority to direct the Labor Department to change standards in order to increase the number of salaried workers who qualify for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. From The New York Times:
Under the new rules that Mr. Obama is seeking, fewer salaried employees could be blocked from receiving overtime, a move that would potentially shift billions of dollars' worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers. Currently, employers are prohibited from denying time-and-a-half overtime pay to any salaried worker who makes less than $455 per week. Mr. Obama's directive would significantly increase that salary level.
In addition, Mr. Obama will try to change rules that allow employers to define which workers are exempt from receiving overtime based on the kind of work they perform. Under current rules, if an employer declares that an employee's primary responsibility is executive, such as overseeing a cleanup crew, then that worker can be exempted from overtime.
On the March 13 edition of Fox's Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott questioned whether raising the minimum wage would be "sufficient to distract people from the jobs and the economy and maybe Obamacare." In a later discussion with Washington Times columnist Charlie Hurt, Scott derided President Obama's plans to strengthen overtime pay protections as a "political tactic" meant to "score political points." Hurt agreed, and concluded that, like raising the minimum wage, expanding overtime pay rules "doesn't really help the economy in any great way":
Continuing a pattern of romanticizing economic hardships that limit employee choice and force workers to put in long hours for low pay, right-wing media have claimed that expanding overtime compensation for salaried workers undermines work ethic by changing "the notion of hard work."
Right-wing media were quick to attack President Obama's new plan to alter Labor Department pay requirements to expand the number of salaried workers who qualify for overtime. Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck warned that this move "undercuts work ethic," and co-host Brian Kilmeade agreed, encouraging viewers to weigh in on the "new American work ethic" and how the plan is "discouraging those, it seems, that want to work more to get further along, with these new rules."
On the March 12 edition of Fox Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, Fox host Martha MacCallum similarly warned that workers would be forced into "an hourly wage category," which she said, gives employees "a whole different mentality." The Wall Street Journal lamented the change in a March 12 editorial:
The rules will particularly harm workers who want to climb the economic ladder by going the extra mile for their employers and demonstrating why they deserve promotion. Now many businesses will tell employees with ambition they can't work long hours.
Fox & Friends also ran an on-air graphic on March 13 that read, "The New American Way: New Rule Seems To Change The Notion Of Hard Work."
These reflexive attacks highlight conservative media's tendency to denounce proposals designed to benefit workers by romanticizing economic hardship. Conservative outlets like Fox News have previously commended the "uniquely American" desire to "work more, work harder" and take on "two and three jobs to make ends meet" as something that is being undermined by policies that offer workers more flexibility.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly distorted the record of private and public sector contributions to the economy under current and past administrations, arguing that voters in 2014 have to choose between a return to a "robust private business climate" or a "big government philosophy."
On the March 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly opened the show with a Talking Points memo highlighting the importance of the economy as an electoral issue in 2014. O'Reilly took issue with efforts by Democrats and the president to make climate change a priority for American voters, calling on viewers to choose a more business friendly government going forward.
During the segment, the following graphic appeared on screen:
It is curious that O'Reilly never defines precisely what "robust private business climate" he wants to return to. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private sector employment hit a bottom in February 2010. Since reaching that low, the economy has recovered to the tune of more than 8.6 million private sector jobs. The Obama administration has overseen a net creation of nearly 5 million private sector jobs since taking office in January 2009, despite inheriting the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
By contrast, over the tenure of the George W. Bush administration, private employment decreased by a total of about 600,000 jobs. You have to look all the way back to 1999 -- nearly 15 years ago -- during the Clinton administration to see private sector job creation as robust as current levels.
It is also unclear what O'Reilly means when warning viewers about the alleged current "big government philosophy." The Obama administration has experienced unprecedented levels of public sector job loss since 2009. Meanwhile, past presidents -- including Ronald Reagan -- boosted public sector employment when faced with economic downturns. President George W. Bush added more than a million new government workers during his tenure.
Fox News reflexively attacked President Obama's forthcoming proposal to raise the salary threshold for overtime compensation, claiming the plan would hurt the economy and discourage hiring, though experts have previously promoted such a change as an opportunity to boost the economy and worker compensation.
Despite mounting evidence that low minimum wages put pressure on government finances through the need for expanded safety net programs, over the past year, evening news programs on four major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS -- have been largely silent about the public cost of low wages.
From the March 6 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox dishonestly framed the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case examining outside influence in the Chattanooga Volkswagen union vote as an attack on Sen. Bob Corker's free speech, ignoring that the board has no authority to constrain political speech.
On February 14, workers at the Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen plant voted down a proposal to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union by a vote of 712 - 626. The vote came after an extended media campaign which culminated on February 13, the day before the scheduled vote, when Corker falsely alleged that if the workers voted against the union, the plant would be rewarded with a new product to manufacture. His claim was immediately rejected by Volkswagen.
The UAW appealed for a re-vote, contending that the "coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign" by Corker and others infringed on the workers' right to "employee free choice."
But on the March 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck framed the fallout of Corker's threats and the impending investigation as "what happens when one of America's most powerful unions doesn't get its way," and as an effort by the UAW to get "a whole new set of rules" if the votes are recast. Hasselbeck then turned to guest Sen. Bob Corker to explain the pending NLRB decision, asking whether the UAW's objection to his threat was really an attempt to stifle free speech:
HASSELBECK: This is a freedom of speech issue, is it not? I mean, The president was out there speaking on behalf of the unions. You were certainly speaking on behalf of your constituents. You worked long and hard to get Volkswagen there from the beginning. Actually had initial meetings in your home. [...] They're telling you you can't speak, but yet the president can? Is this a double standard when it comes to freedom of speech?
CORKER: Yes. And I think, you know, we'll have to see. The UAW has been given until Friday to add additional arguments to their case. You're right, the president weighed in during the election process also. Again, this has happened time and time in the past and never, never before has the NLRB ever overruled because politicians have been involved in this way. So look, I -- you're right. I built the industrial part that Volkswagen is located on when I was mayor with others, recruited them to our state, had been involved with them for five years. Know the management up and down the line, have been, you know, have relationships there. And for me to express concerns about what it would mean to our community and our state over time is something that I think people elect me to do. So again, this is an interesting case. Hopefully even though this is Obama's NLRB, these are his appointees, hopefully they will do the right thing here and not try to muzzle people that are elected by people in their state.
Fox's attempt to frame the NLRB decision as an issue of free speech is dishonest. Offering workers a second chance to consider unionization isn't the same thing as "muzzling" Corker, and giving workers some distance from his comments isn't, as Hasselbeck claimed, a UAW ploy to implement "a whole new set of rules." As former NLRB general counsel Fred Feinstein explained, "the NLRB has no authority over Sen. Corker and cannot control what he says." At most, he said, the Board could conclude that Corker's comments had unfairly tainted the election and could "conceivably order a new one."
The NLRB is responsible for protecting workers legal right to "engage in protected concerted activities-group action to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions and to engage in union activities and support a union," and works to ensure that workers are free of coercion while maintaining their right to "free choice" during union elections. The NLRB typically focuses on whether unions or companies have been involved in illegal coercion of workers during a union vote, but third-party coercion is still a concern. The Huffington Post explained that the NLRB could make the case "that Corker's highly detailed statement created an atmosphere of coercion."
The UAW is only asking for a re-vote, which, if granted, would only allow the unionization of the plant with a majority vote. That's a far cry from Fox's claim that the UAW is planning to "take over" the Volkswagen plant and block officials' free speech in the process.