Mika Openly Supports Fast Food Strike, Pledges to Join Protest

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski vehemently criticized Miley Cyrus’s lewd display during Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” at the MTV Video Music Awards, but Brzezinski herself has blurred the lines between morning show anchor and social activist. On today’s Morning Joe, broadcast from a Ford assembly line near Detroit, the co-host openly declared her support for the nationwide fast food workers’ strike that was planned for today, even threatening to join the protesting workers.

Brzezinski introduced the story about halfway through the show, and she just couldn’t manage to hide her opinion: “Thousands of workers are set to stage walkouts in 35 cities around the country, including Detroit. As part of a push to get chains such as McDonald's, Taco Bell and Wendy's to increase their pay, as they should.


Brzezinski said the strikers were demanding $15 an hour in pay, as well as the right to unionize. She endorsed their demands as she muttered, seemingly to herself, “Support them fully. Absolutely.” Mika then turned to Steven Rattner, the Morning Joe economic analyst who was sitting on the panel, and cattily declared, “Not even going to ask you a question, Steve Rattner.” She cut to commercial break without giving Rattner a chance to lend his economic expertise to the topic.

Later, after Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, had joined the set, Brzezinski let her emotions burst forth: “Mary Kay, I need you to explain to this group, and explain to us why it's so difficult to give people who work hard for a living a salary, a wage, that they can maybe even just barely live on. I don't understand why this is so difficult.”

Poor Mika. All heart, no economics. Raising the minimum wage to $15.00 seems like the compassionate thing to do. It is a move that would lift the fortunes of all the fast food workers who currently make the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. But employers would be unable to afford such a massive wage increase without laying off workers or increasing their prices. Therefore, a more than doubling of the minimum wage could result in increased unemployment among low-skilled workers. It would amount to a wage decrease – from $7.25 to $0.00 – for those who lost their jobs.

Companies might also double their prices in order to cope with a doubled minimum wage. Would Mika be willing to pay double for a hamburger or a salad? It’s possible that she’s wealthy enough to pay more. But would the many blue-collar customers who frequent McDonald’s and Burger King, for example, be willing to pay twice as much for their fast food?

At the end of the interview with Henry, Brzezinski reiterated her support for the strike: “I wish you the best of luck with this. Let us know if I can help you in any way. Joe's keeping me from protesting but I'm going to. I'm going to protest.”

She made the same threat to participate three weeks ago, as NewsBusters reported. No word on whether Joe Scarborough was able to stop her. But if Mika did in fact join the protest, she would join the Reverend Al Sharpton as another MSNBC host who blurs the lines of news reporting by engaging in liberal activism.

Below is a partial transcript of the segment:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Today, fast food workers from across the United States are set to strike after almost a year-long campaign to raise wages in the service sector. This isn't the first protest by workers but it is expected to be one of the largest. Thousands of workers are set to stage walkouts in 35 cities around the country, including Detroit. As part of a push to get chains such as McDonald's, Taco Bell and Wendy's to increase their pay, as they should. The striking workers are demanding the right to unionize. They also want at least $15 an hour in pay, more than double the current national minimum wage of $7.25. Support them fully. Absolutely. Not even going to ask you a question, Steve Rattner. All right. Up next, we're going to talk to the head of the service union, ask him some questions as well as the head of the auto workers union, Mary Kay Henry and Jimmy Settles join the set. More Morning Joe live from the Ford plant when we come back.

***

BRZEZINSKI: Mary Kay, you know what I want to ask you about.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Oh, dear lord.

BRZEZINSKI: Why is this so –

SCARBOROUGH: We're going to the hamburgers.

MARY KAY HENRY: We have the same dream with the fast food industry, that we can join hands and lift wages.

BRZEZINSKI: Mary Kay, I need you to explain to this group, and explain to us why it's so difficult to give people who work hard for a living a salary, a wage, that they can maybe even just barely live on. I don't understand why this is so difficult. Steve tells me it's simple math.

HENRY: Hundreds of workers are striking today because they agree with you, and they –  they don’t understand –

BRZEZINSKI: But why is this so hard?

HENRY: When multinational corporations are earning billions of dollars in record profits they ought to be able to invest a piece of that profit back into the people on the front lines that are helping make that profit happen. In the same way that auto jobs were bad jobs in the last century, service jobs need to be good jobs in this century.



***

MICHAEL STEELE: So how does this play itself out if management is dealing with pockets of workers here and there? I mean, how does this impact the McDonald’s in--

HENRY: Well this is a movement that's been spreading. It started in New York and today 56 cities are joining this movement because more and more workers are wondering, why am I earning $7.25, an average of $9,000 a year in the city of Detroit?

STEVE RATTNER: But a classic labor movement would be to organize these workers into unions, and go on strike, and ask for higher wages. That's the American way. And have a discussion. But so far it's been more demonstrations than actually organizing of these –  

HENRY: Well, these are not protests or demonstrations. These are actual strikes. People are giving up wages today, which is a radical action. People don't want to do this, but they have no other choice.

RATTNER: But for one day.

HENRY: So they're taking initiatives to try and make things better. But I would submit, Steve, that one-day strike for a worker that's earning $9,000 a year and cannot make ends meet and is choosing between food and housing, is an incredible sacrifice and they're standing up for all of us. ‘Cause one in four jobs are these jobs and we're headed to 48 percent  of our economy being these jobs. And it's wrong. When you work hard, you ought to be able to feed your family and not live in poverty.

BRZEZINSKI: Work is supposed to take you out of poverty.

HENRY: Exactly.

BRZEZINSKI: It's pretty simple.

HENRY: Exactly.

BRZEZINSKI: I wish you the best of luck with this. Let us know if I can help you in any way. Joe's keeping me from protesting but I'm going to. I'm going to protest.
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.