MSNBC Host Compares Wal-Mart Wage Earners with Civil Rights Marchers

MSNBC has been covering President Obama’s White House Summit on Working Families intently thus far today, and the trend continued on the June 23 edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports. Guest host Peter Alexander brought on Charmaine Givens-Thomas to discuss her efforts in petitioning President Obama to set up a meeting with Wal-Mart workers to highlight low wages, inequality, and the lack of recovery for workers following the Great Recession.

Suffice it to say, Ms. Givens-Thomas, a Wal-Mart employee herself, made some truly bizarre arguments in support of her cause, like seeming to place blame on Wal-Mart for the pregnancies of their workers [MP3 audio here; video below]:

I think the fight starts with, as far as pregnant women are concerned, that there are too many pregnant women that are struggling at Wal-Mart. Their needs are not being met. Rules and policies are not being enforced. There's still too many miscarriages on that end.

Despite the confusing logic put forth by Givens-Thomas, Peter Alexander was more than willing to play along:

Another point that we learned in advance of your arrival here is that you marched alongside Martin Luther King in Chicago as a teenager. As you sit with me, I want to get a sense from you if you see any similarities between the civil rights issues of that day and the income inequality issues that you continue to fight for today?

Naturally, Givens-Thomas concurred, saying that it was “very, very crazy that we could be having the same discussion from when Martin Luther King” was fighting the struggle against racial inequality.

While Alexander did read Wal-Mart’s statement on the issue, revealing that the discount retail chain does in fact provide ample opportunity for pay raises and promotions, it served as nothing more than a token counter-point to the argument being made in the segment.

Comparing the fight for basic civil rights to the absurd demands Ms. Givens-Thomas seems to make of her employer is intellectually dishonest to say the least. It is unclear what, exactly, MSNBC hopes to accomplish by promoting this petition or, for that matter, what the petition itself hopes to achieve.

The relevant portion of the transcript is below:

MSNBC
Andrea Mitchell Reports
June 23, 2014
12:29 p.m. Eastern

PETER ALEXANDER, guest host: Vice President Joe Biden a short time ago. Part of a wide-ranging discussion at the first ever White House Summit on Working Families that’s gonna feature economists, labor leaders, everyday Americans and President Obama. Charmaine Givens-Thomas is participating in today’s summit and her activism is a big part of why the summit is actually taking place. Charmaine, we're pleased to have you with us.

CHARMAINE GIVENS-THOMAS, Wal-Mart worker: I'm happy to be here, Peter.

ALEXANDER: We appreciate you being here, thanks so much. I want to get a sense as we tell a little bit about your background. You've been working at Wal-Mart for the last eight years. You said last year you made $23,000, that was because you got plenty of bonuses. More specifically, tell me about this petition that you helped launch that has now brought on board 200,000 signatures. What's the message?

GIVENS-THOMAS: The message is we were asking President Obama to meet with us because Wall Street had came back from the–sorry–the economy.

ALEXANDER: The crisis.

GIVENS-THOMAS: Main street had not came back from that. So we are struggling on main street every day. People are not able to make it on like myself. I make about $550 every two weeks. Sometimes I'm not able to pay utility bills.

ALEXANDER: As you note, your gas was recently turned off, is that right?

GIVENS-THOMAS; That's correct. It was.

ALEXANDER: I want to get a sense from you right now. First of all, Wal-Mart has, for its part, they say they have taken some positive steps, including an improved pregnancy policy. Here's part of the statement they sent to MSNBC today. So we’re gonna put that up on the screen from them. They say Wal-Mart offers opportunity, a ladder up in life. Here some are facts they tell us. We have 15,000 to 50,000 job openings on any given day and no special background is required. We promote 170,000 people each year and 40,000– excuse me, 40% of those promotions go to people in their first year. 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates, and it may surprise you, they say, but those folks earn $50,000 to $250,000 a year. You can think of it like this. It's easy to get in. It's easy to move up and then the sky is the limit. Where does the fight stand right now? Where is–what is your desire? What do you think can happen right now with the help of this administration and with the help of efforts like yours?

GIVENS-THOMAS: Well, I think the fight starts with, as far as pregnant women are concerned, that there are too many pregnant women that are struggling at Wal-Mart. Their needs are not being met. Rules and policies are not being enforced. There's still too many miscarriages on that end. A lot of people are still struggling. Very much so at WalMart. They–instead of–I'm a full-time associate at Wal-Mart and I still only make 24 to 34 hours a week. So they can make people that want to be full-time associates are considered full-time, they can give them more hours.

ALEXANDER: Another point that we learned in advance of your arrival here is that you marched alongside Martin Luther King in Chicago as a teenager. As you sit with me, I want to get a sense from you if you see any similarities between the civil rights issues of that day and the income inequality issues that you continue to fight for today?

GIVENS-THOMAS: Absolutely, yes. I marched with Dr. Martin Luther King when I was 15 years old in Chicago from Soldier Field to downtown Chicago for housing. And that left an impression on me that I could never like sit back and see a wrong and just not say anything. So with that being said, now that I find myself almost nine years at Wal-Mart, when I see a wrong, I can't just be quiet and sit back and not address the wrongs. So in America, yes, I find it very, very crazy that we could be having the same discussion from when Martin Luther King–

ALEXANDER: So many years later.

GIVENS-THOMAS: Yes, in 2014.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.