National Organizations To Broadcast Channels: Cover The High Cost Of Low Wages

As the debate on the minimum wage unfolds across the country and in the states, a key point to keep in mind is that low wages impose a high cost on everyone. Not only do those workers have less money to buy necessities from local businesses, which then drags down the economy, they often have to rely on safety net programs like SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) to get by. In fact, according to one study, the low wages in the fast food industry alone cost taxpayers approximately $7 billion per year in the form of additional outlays in Medicaid, the Childen's Health Insurance Program, SNAP, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. On the other hand, raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty and lower the need for SNAP by $46 billion over 10 years. 

If members of the American public were not aware of this information, it'd be hard to blame them. It certainly doesn't help that they're not getting it during their nightly news shows. According to research conducted by Media Matters For America, the broadcast evening news rarely mention the impact of low wages on anti-poverty programs:

Source: Media Matters For America

In response, last week a national coalition of organizations sent a letter to the broadcast channels raising these issues and calling for improved coverage of the minimum wage. Progressive States Network was proud to join this letter; the full text is shown below. 

March 14, 2014

David Rhodes                                               Ben Sherwood
President, CBS News                                     President, ABC News
524 West 57th Street                                    47 West 66th Street
New York, NY 10019                                     New York, NY 10023

Deborah Turness                                           Paula Kerger 
President, NBC News                                     CEO, PBS                        
30 Rockefeller Plaza                                      2100 Crystal Drive
New York, NY 10112                                      Arlington, VA 22202

Dear Mr. Rhodes, Mr. Sherwood, Ms. Turness, and Ms. Kerger:

We are writing to express our deep concern regarding your networks’ coverage of the impact of low minimum wages on hard-working Americans, their families, and our country. As evidence mounts showing that low wages cost taxpayers and our economy billions annually and keep millions of workers in poverty, the push for better, more livable wages is growing nationwide. At this critical juncture, your viewers deserve to know what’s at stake if we fail to address the status quo.

According to a report published this week by Media Matters for America, World News with Diane Sawyer, CBS Evening News , Nightly News with Brian Williams, andPBS NewsHour  only mentioned the public cost of low minimum wages eight times in the last year – including how they burden taxpayers and force workers to rely on government programs, such as SNAP, TANF, housing vouchers, or other anti-poverty programs. The majority of mentions were on PBS NewsHour, which provided six of the eight total mentions. The other two were made on Nightly News with Brian Williams.

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.



American Family Voices

Americans United for Change

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance

Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

Campaign for America’s Future

Coalition on Human Needs

Communications Workers of America

Courage Campaign

Dean Baker, Co-Director, Center on Economic and Policy Research

Democracy Partners

Disciples Justice Action Network

Main Street Alliance

National Employment Law Project

Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength

Progressive Change Campaign Committee


Progressive States Network

Smart Capitalists for American Prosperity

The Agenda Project

United Auto Workers

Working America