CNN Anchor Friendly With Striking Fast Food Worker, But Grills Restaurant Exec

CNN's Carol Costello showed a massive double standard in her coverage of Thursday's fast food strikes, grilling a National Restaurant Association executive while treating a striking worker with kid gloves.

The disparity between the interviews was stark. Costello started by putting the NRA executive on the defensive: "do these workers have a point? Should they make more money?" In contrast, in the next hour she teed up a striking worker: "I can't help but notice your t-shirt. What does it say?"

The shirt read "We Can't Survive on $7.35." The worker went on to compare the strikers' situation with "economic slavery."

Costello continued to lean heavily toward the protesters' side. She interrupted the NRA executive, Angelo Amador, and pushed him to compromise with the workers: "if you pay so many workers such low wages, those workers aren't going to be able to afford to buy anything. Certainly they're not going to be able to afford to go out and eat dinner, right? So why not pay them a little more and grow the economy that way?"

"I think Angelo, that some might disagree," Costello challenged his point that fast food companies have low profit margins. "If you take – if you take a look at a company like McDonald's, they have high profit margins. So why not share?"

Meanwhile, she tossed mostly softballs to striking Domino's Pizza delivery driver Thomas McGinniss. "Are you going to hit the picket lines yourself later today?" she asked him. "We interviewed you once before, the last time fast food workers, you know, walked off the job. Did anything change?" she followed up.

Below is a transcript of the segments, which aired on August 29 on CNN Newsroom:

CNN
NEWSROOM
8/29/13
[9:52 a.m. EDT]

CAROL COSTELLO: Today fast food workers in more than 50 cities are walking off the job.

CROWD: (chanting)

COSTELLO: Today's strikes could be the biggest yet. All year the protests have been gaining steam. Workers want the federal minimum wage to be raised to 15 bucks an hour to put them on par with more skilled workers like some health technicians for example make $15 an hour, sales reps makes $15 an hour, receptionists, and department managers at retail stores, they also make $15 an hour.

Joining us is Angelo Amador from the National Restaurant Association. He is the vice president of labor and work force policy. Good morning Angelo.

ANGELO AMADOR, VP labor & workforce policy, National Restaurant Association: Good morning Carol.

COSTELLO: Ok so we'll just hit it right off the bat should – do these workers have a point? Should they make more money?

AMADOR: I mean we need to look at the economy. I'm so glad that you invited me today to talk about an industry that is creating jobs at a faster rate than the economy as a whole. So actually you know as we're coming from – coming out of the recession we should be looking at way of creating more jobs and increasing the economy, growing the economy, not adding more burden to small businesses.

COSTELLO: Well, if you put it this way, though, you know, if you pay so many workers such low wages, those workers aren't going to be able to afford to buy anything. Certainly they're not going to be able to afford to go out and eat dinner, right? So why not pay them a little more and grow the economy that way?

AMADOR: Well first of all, the percentage of workers in the restaurant industry making minimum wage is about five percent. So we're not talking about a great deal of number of workers.

But you know again, you know it's an industry of opportunity and those jobs that do pay minimum wage are entry levels. I don't think you can be 60 years old and work with no high school diploma and get a job as a department manager at retail. So you got to start somewhere and make your way up. I mean I was just talking to somebody who started as a driver making minimum wage, and now owns 25 stores.

COSTELLO: I do understand that. But you know times are changing. There are not many manufacturing jobs available anymore. And the fact is that more and more people are making such jobs a lifetime career. They are because they have to. There are no other jobs available.

AMADOR: And I understand. I cannot, you know, talk about one individual's particular circumstances. But again, you know, we got to look at the job itself and the requirements for the job. The point is that you can make a career out of – in the industry. Most people come out of minimum wage in a very short amount of time. It's an entry-level kind of –

COSTELLO: Really, do you think most people come out of those jobs quickly and find something --

(Crosstalk)

AMADOR: Oh yeah.

COSTELLO: You really think so? Because they say they don't. They say they're not. They say they're trying to raise families on $9 an hour and they can't do it. So what are they just – not trying?

AMADOR: No. If it wasn't the case, if it wasn't the case it wouldn't be at five percent. I mean again, the number of workers making minimum wage in the restaurant industry is five percent. But again, you know, the point is that we're creating opportunity, we're creating opportunity for everybody. And I think it's – you cannot just pay wages based on a person's needs. You got to pay wages based on what the economy's willing to bear, and the business model. And again, you know we are very high worker-intensive with very low profit margins. And you know, it's – those are the jobs. But again, nine out of ten managers start as salary employees.  

COSTELLO: I think, Angelo, I know – I think Angelo, that some might disagree. If you take – if you take a look at a company like McDonald's, they have high profit margins. So why not share?

AMADOR: You know, if you look at the restaurant industry, they look at the big brand names. They're going after big brand names. But when you look at it, nine out of ten restaurants are either independent or franchisees. So while the name might be well recognized at the door, who is behind it might be just a small business.

COSTELLO: Understand.

(...)

[10:39]

COSTELLO: Workers at McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and other fast- food outlets already have hit the picket lines this year, and their protests appear to be gaining steam. They're demanding the federal minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour. That's more than double the current rate of $7.25. And they want the right to form unions without retaliation. Joining us now from St. Louis is Thomas McGinnis. He's been working for Domino's Pizza as a deliveryman for almost 24 years. Welcome.

THOMAS MCGINNIS, Domino's delivery driver: Thank you. Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning. I can't help but notice your t-shirt. What does it say?

MCGINNIS: It says we can't survive on $7.35. That seems to be the mantra right now.

COSTELLO: Are you going to hit the picket lines yourself later today?

MCGINNIS: Well I was already at McDonald's, Hardee's, a bread company, and a Jimmy John's this morning. So it's already well underway. Those were all downtown St. Louis.

COSTELLO: We interviewed you once before, the last time fast food workers, you know, walked off the job. Did anything change?

MCGINNIS: Apparently there are some changes. I overheard of some NBA players buying a large Wendy's franchise and bumping everybody's salary up to about $10 an hour. So that sounds like somebody's listening. So –

COSTELLO: What are your bosses saying about this work action?

MCGINNIS: Our bosses?

COSTELLO: Mm-hmm.

MCGINNISS: Well I'm fortunate enough to have my boss as a friend. But the bosses above them, the franchisees, they're not saying too much. But I know they're not happy about it. And I'm sure the corporation is unhappy about it.

COSTELLO: Do you think your action will really effect change, a widespread change?

MCGINNIS: I certainly hope so because, you know, the – where we are now is a kind of a economic slavery compared to – you know when – yeah.

COSTELLO: I talked with someone from the Restaurant Association who said that the types of jobs that you have, for example, are meant to be temporary jobs, they are not meant to be lifetime jobs. How do you respond to that?

MCGINNIS: Well, I mean, I can see how someone saying that, you know, it would be used as a stepping stone. And you know I happen to like my job. And I feel like if anyone works 40 hours a week, you know, doing sweaty labor, you would think they should be able to make a decent living. So I don't think it's out of the question. A lot of families depend on that income, you know. I know a lot of people that have went to school and graduated and still can't seem to get good jobs, so.

COSTELLO: I was just going to ask you that. Because some people might say, well, if you're not satisfied with what you're paid, why not move on and find another job?

MCGINNIS: Yeah. And I was at the point where I was prepared to move on. I also work a day job in the morning just to barely make ends meet. And so it's clear that the – the inequality of income in this country is just too far gone for too long. That's why $15 an hour seems so high. Because it's -- it's gone unchecked. And you know, a lot of corporations are allowed to self-regulate nowadays and that – this is – this is what happens.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014