MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell and Fmr. Union Boss Agree, Labor Movement On the Rise

On Monday's Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC, fill-in host Norah O'Donnell touted "court challenges and recall efforts now that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill into law restricting collective bargaining rights." Turning to former SEIU President Andy Stern, she proclaimed: "100,000 protesters took to the [Wisconsin] capital this weekend....That's a huge rally."

Stern argued: "...that is enormous and I think it just makes the point this is not over....People are very angry and this has become quite a symbolic moment." O'Donnell then lamented: "And yet, the Governor was able to sign this bill into law." She later added: "You think actually there's been a backlash that has mobilized all the pro-union forces, as a result, all across the country." Stern responded: "I think it's an American moment where people say, 'We understand we have to share in the pain when things are bad but we don't think we have to lose our rights, lose our unions, and have large corporations and some of the members of the Republican party act in such a destructful [destructive] manner.'"

O'Donnell then bizarrely brought the potential of an NFL players strike into the conversation. Stern equated the situation with that of Wisconsin and ranted: "It seems like CEOs and people always do well and workers are always asked to pay a price. I don't think America likes that anymore and the football situation is so clearly about that."

Agreeing with Stern, O'Donnell claimed that an NFL strike would cause Americans to become more pro-union: "A lot of people like the NFL, a lot of people like to watch football. And if they start hearing they're not going to have their football come the fall they're going to ask why and I can tell you probably most people are going to end up siding with the players over the owners."

Referring to the multi-millionaire pro-football players, Stern asserted: "I think people feel like these players work hard. They only have two or three years of real experience to earn a lot of money, then they, a lot of times, get injured. They deserve something better than this."

Here is a full transcript of the March 14 segment:

1:46PM ET

NORAH O'DONNELL: Pro-union supporters are refocusing on court challenges and recall efforts now that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill into law restricting collective bargaining rights. An estimated 100,000 protesters took to the capital this weekend. Andy Stern is the former president of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union. Andy, good to see you. 100,000 protesters. That's a huge rally.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Fight for Labor Rights; Pro-Union Supporters Building Recall Efforts]

ANDY STERN: Yeah, I mean, that is enormous and I think it just makes the point this is not over. It was not like we signed a law and everyone's going to move on. People are very angry and this has become quite a symbolic moment.

O'DONNELL: And yet, the Governor was able to sign this bill into law.

STERN: Yeah, I think clearly it did not end as perfectly as the unions wanted but I think the point is not ending. We have a recall now going on of senators. We have an opportunity in the 2012 election to be able to make Wisconsin a state that does represent workers rights. And I think, you know, most importantly around the country people are beginning to say, 'What was the purpose of all of this? This wasn't good government, this was a political payback.'

O'DONNELL: You think actually there's been a backlash that has mobilized all the pro-union forces, as a result, all across the country.

STERN: I don't think it's just the pro-union forces, those 100,000 people, there were farmers yesterday in their tractors and pickup trucks. I mean, I think it's an American moment where people say, 'We understand we have to share in the pain when things are bad but we don't think we have to lose our rights, lose our unions, and have large corporations and some of the members of the Republican party act in such a destructful manner.'

O'DONNELL: Of course, on Friday, we saw the NFL move forward and shut out the players. This is really significant.

STERN: Oh I think it's huge, and it just makes the point. Here we have Wisconsin, where I think people said, 'Okay, when things are going bad, workers have a responsibility, like everyone else, to share in the pain.' Here we have the NFL, 'It's doing phenomenally well, but we're not supposed to share in the gain. We're again supposed to share in the pain.' And it seems like CEOs and people always do well and workers are always asked to pay a price. I don't think America likes that anymore and the football situation is so clearly about that.

O'DONNELL: I actually think the NFL situation can have farther reaching complications, because so many people watch football. Not everybody knows Wisconsin or knows what's going on in Wisconsin, they may not be part of a union. But a lot of people like the NFL, a lot of people like to watch football. And if they start hearing they're not going to have their football come the fall they're going to ask why and I can tell you probably most people are going to end up siding with the players over the owners.

STERN: Yeah, I think so too. And you know, when you think about how much taxpayers have contributed to the stadiums all over the country – and it's not just how much people pay for the advertising and watch it – I think people feel like these players work hard. They only have two or three years of real experience to earn a lot of money, then they, a lot of times, get injured. They deserve something better than this.

O'DONNELL: But you do fully acknowledge, like in Wisconsin, that private sector unions – excuse me, public sector unions – and public employees are going to have to pay more when it comes to health care and pension and everything else?

STERN: Yeah. And I think we're seeing that. I think people understand that when things are bad everyone has to share. The question is when things are good, like the Football Players Association, what's that about?

O'DONNELL: Andy Stern, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

STERN: Thanks.   

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC