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Welcome to Winning Wages: A Media Kit for Successful Living Wage Strategies Designed as a
Welcome to Winning Wages: A Media Kit for Successful Living Wage Strategies Designed as a

Welcome to Winning Wages: A Media Kit for Successful Living Wage Strategies

Designed as a “best practices” resource, this kit provides extensive information, tips, how-to’s, case studies, check lists, message language, media spin strategies and much more. It’s just about everything you will need to mount an effective media effort around living wage, except the actual headlines and news coverage!

But it’s also more than that. Although focused on living wage strategies, this kit provides a broader communications context. Living wage is but one front in the progressive struggle for economic justice. Just about everything in this kit is transferable to a variety of economic justice battles, from welfare to temp workers to immigrant laborers.

Thanks to Tides Foundation, this kit is being made available to a variety of groups fighting for living wages and other economic justice campaigns. In some areas the kit will be backed up with media training by the SPIN Project. It’s about growing the capacity and developing the leadership of grassroots and national organizations so they can be more effective media advocates.

For more information on this kit and SPIN Project media trainings, call the SPIN Project Coordinator at (415)284-1420, ext. 309, info@spinproject.org.

For more information on Tides Foundation’s Bridging Economic Divide Initiative, contact livingwage@tides.org, or call Sujin Lee, Tides Community Fellow, at (415)561-7800.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

WINNING WAGES: A MEDIA KIT FOR SUCCESSFUL LIVING WAGE STRATEGIES

PART 1: INTRODUCTION

1

Note From the Funder

3

Note From the Author

4

What Is the SPIN Project?

5

Navigating This Media Kit: Best Practices

7

Acknowledgements

PART 2: THE LIVING WAGE BIG PICTURE

9

Toward a Vision of Economic Justice: State of the Living Wage Struggle

11

Living Wage Wins

12

In Living Color: Living Wage, Race and the Continuing Struggle for Justice

PART 3: MEDIA BASICS

15

Media Do’s and Don’ts

18

Five Steps to Success

19

Targeting your Audience

21

Media Jargon

PART 4: FRAMING & MESSAGING

25

Framing the News

27

Case Study: Rats Bite Baby: A Framing Example

28

How and Why to Frame Living Wage News

30

News Hooks for Your Frame

32

Analysis: New Lenses for Your Frames:

An Analysis of the Framing of Living Wage

44

A Model for Your Living Wage Message:

Problem, Solution, and Action

46

The Living Wage Message: The Short Version

47

What Their Side Says: Countering Opposition Messages Against a Living Wage

48

Quick Primer for Heading Off the Opposition

49

EITC vs. Living Wage?

50

Case Study: Opposition Dirty Tricks:

Countering Their Side’s Messages

52

Know Your Enemy

53

Case Study: A Matter of Basic Fairness:

Values and Living Wage Media

55

Case Study: Focus on the Workplace: Living Wage Takes Off at the Airport While Security Guards Near City Hall Become Empowered

56

Press Clippings Example

58

Case Study: “Do Not Defraud the Laborer of Their Just Wage:” Religious Leadership in the Battle for a Living Wage

59

Moral Values Behind a Living Wage

59

Thou Shalt: Do’s and Don’ts of Your Campaign and Clergy

60

Who Are the Best Messengers? Targeting Your Audience and Messaging a Living Wage

61

Profile On Workers

62

Spotlight On Spokespersons: Making Them Media Mainstays

63

Tearsheet: Living Wage Testimony

65

Case Study: Atlanta Living Wage Coalition Spokesperson Testimonials

PART 5: NUTS & BOLTS OF GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT

67

Developing a Relationship With Reporters

70

Expanding and Prioritizing Your Media Database

71

Tearsheet: Reporter Intake Form: When a Reporter Calls

72

The Press Kit

74

Fact Sheets

75

News Releases: The Who, What, Where, When and Why of It All

77

Sample: Press Release

79

Sample: Media Advisory

80

Pitching Your Story to the Press

82

Organizing Successful Media Briefings and Editorial Board Reviews

84

Staging Media Events That Grab Attention

87

Telephone News Conferences Ring True

88

More Tips for Media Events

89

Photo Opportunities

(cont.)

90

Case Study: From Media Advisory to Press Release to Headlines

135

Getting Coverage Between the Big Actions

136

Sample: Press Clippings

 

96

Making News With Your Living Wage Report

138

The Law and the Headlines: Dealing With Legal Issues in the Press

97

Structuring Your Report So It is Easy for Reporters to Read

139

Tip Sheet for PR and Legal Cases

 

98

The Full-On Media Campaign

140

Case Study: Struggle In the Mountains: Santa Fe’s Citywide Minimum Wage Victory

98

Why Embargo a Report?

99

Case Study: Releasing Research Media Advisory

142

Case Study: Living Wage con Salsa: Farm Workers In Florida Take On Taco Bell

100

Opinion Editorials and Letters to the Editor

102

Sample: Op-Ed Submission

104

Sample: Letters to the Editor

PART 7: THE FUTURE OF LIVING WAGE

 
 

108

You’re On the Air: Tips for Doing Radio and TV Talk Shows

145

Trends In the Living Wage Movement: Where To Now, and How Does the Message Evolve?

109

Smile, You’re On Camera: Tips for Being Telegenic

111

News Radio: Getting the Word Out Using Radio Actualities

148

Young People & Decent Wages

 

149

Some Facts About Young Workers

113

Living Wage Media Strategy Online

151

Hearing From Youth on the Front Lines

118

Tracking and Responding to News Coverage

152

Case Study: Now That the Law Has Been Passed:

120

Checklist for Monitoring the Media

Activists Turn Attention to Enforcing Living Wage

 

154

Case Study: Living Wage Reloaded: In a Time of

PART 6: CAMPAIGN STRATEGIES

 
 

Economic Downturn, “Community Benefits” a Next Frontier

121

The Living Wage Media Plan

121

Planning Your Media: A Checklist

158

Case Study: Rising In the Deep South: The Good News About Losing a Living Wage Fight, or Two

123

Top Ten List for a Media Campaign

124

Case Study: Planning Your Living Wage Press

160

Conclusion

 

127

Case Study: A Sense That We are Never Going Away: In Sacramento, a Living Wage Campaign Overcomes Obstacles, Including Hostile Media

 

RESOURCES

   
 

131

Case Study: Anatomy of a Winning Campaign:

   

CONTACTS

 

Moving the Message In Virginia

 

132

Top Five Tips for our Media Campaign

   

ADDENDA & NOTES

Credits

Robert Bray, Editor, Author, SPIN Project Founding Director Max Toth, Managing Editor and Project Coordinator

TIDES FOUNDATION Idelisse Malavé, Executive Director Sujin Lee, Community Fellow

THE SPIN PROJECT Holly Minch, Director

INDEPENDENT MEDIA INSTITUTE Don Hazen, Executive Director

Graphic Designer: Stephanie Syjuco Photographs: Rick Reinhard, Stephanie Syjuco Printing: Accurate Printing, San Francisco, CA

ACCURATE PRINTING
ACCURATE PRINTING

61

Copyright © 2003 Tides Foundation and SPIN Project, Independent Media Institute. Permission granted to pro-living wage activists to make copies of content for use in their campaigns.

PART 1

INTRODUCTION

Winning Wages Media Kit

Note From the Funder

“Living wage laws are bad for the economy and result in lost jobs.”

T hat statement is not true—but it is effective. And when it is repeated over and over again by conservative politicians, by well-compensated spokespeople, and in print, radio and television ads, it is even more effective.

We all know that mass communication is one of the most powerful tools in the modern world. Every major election and policy initiative drives that point home. And with new technologies developing almost daily, communication becomes faster, broader

and even more important. That’s why Tides Foundation is extremely pleased to announce the Bridging the Economic Divide Media Project. The project will address issues of media capacity, communications, and message framing among Bridging the Economic Divide grantee groups working on economic justice campaigns.

Bridging the Economic Divide

Tides Foundation’s Bridging the Economic Divide (BED) Initiative started in 2000 as a donor collaborative to address the growing chasm between the poor and the wealthy in this country. Individual donors contributed to the fund, and began meeting twice a year to make collective decisions about funding priorities and grantmaking. Since its inception, BED has granted almost $1.5 million to 45 organizations across the country, funding organizations working on economic justice issues. Since the first living wage ordinance passed in 1994, the living wage movement has been successful in garnering media attention and public support. Broad coalitions of community, labor and faith-based organizations have been effective in convincing their communities and public officials that improving wages and benefits for thousands of low-wage workers makes good sense. And other economic justice efforts, such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ boycott of Taco Bell, has received national media attention and garnered support from many students and activists all over the country. Their “penny per pound” campaign is using a moral argument to encourage fast food companies to pay a slight increase in the price of tomatoes to ensure that tomato pickers earn a living wage. But, as the movement has grown, so has its opposition. This was never more evident than last November in Santa Monica, California. Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) spearheaded a challenge to an anti-living wage referendum sponsored by the local hotel industry. Victory looked assured until a last minute, multi-million dollar media blitz swayed the election. LAANE ultimately lost the election by a mere 700 votes. (That development is currently under public scrutiny due to the use of misleading slate mailers that falsely implied that prominent progressives were against the living wage law). The Santa Monica election is a stark example of two massive challenges facing the economic justice movement: A well-funded, business-backed opposition, and effectively framing living wage issues in the context of the current economic downturn.

(cont.)

1

INTRODUCTION

PART 1

2

Note From the Funder, cont.

BED Media Project

Thanks to generous contributions from five BED donors, Tides has launched the Bridging the Economic Divide Media Project to address the specific media needs of the economic justice movement. The idea for a media project was conceived at the BED Donor Collaborative meeting in May 2002. Collaborative members were interested in the lessons that the living wage movement presented for using the media to frame a progressive economic message. In today’s climate of economic insecurity, the economic justice movement needs to protect its gains and respond to the claims that living wage laws threaten small businesses and hurt local communities. It is not enough to launch campaigns with the message that economic justice is fair and necessary. We must craft broad messages that speak to a diverse public. We must help local activists build knowledge and skills to deal with today’s media outlets. We must train effective spokespeople and anticipate the well-connected and well- funded opposition. This Winning Wages Media Kit is just one element designed to address these needs in the growing economic justice community. Plans are underway for follow-up trainings where activists will work with project consultant Robert Bray of the SPIN Project to hone their media engagement techniques.

A Broader Discussion, A Bigger Movement

These trainings will provide a rare opportunity for activists from a variety of economic justice organizations to meet and discuss movement building and media strategy. Tides Foundation hopes that this Media Project will mark the beginning of

a larger conversation—bringing together community organizations and funders around

a broader economic justice agenda. We look forward to the relationships that will

be built across strategies and constituencies, and hope that these relationships will become the foundation for a stronger movement that has the power to fundamen- tally increase our victories and improve collaborative efforts around economic justice organizing. In these times of global economic and political crisis, we firmly believe that the economic justice movement has the potential to make concrete advances for low-wage workers, develop the leadership of some of the most disenfranchised people in our society, and offer a grand vision for a peaceful, democratic, and just world.

Yours in hopes of peace and justice,

and just world. Yours in hopes of peace and justice, Idelisse Malavé Executive Director Tides Foundation

Idelisse Malavé

Executive Director

Tides Foundation

Winning Wages Media Kit

PART 1

INTRODUCTION

Winning Wages Media Kit

Note From the Author

L iving wage is perhaps the winnable economic justice battle in America today. In

fact, some would say it is one of the few big battles we are winning in a time of

conservative control of federal and state governments, the unprecedented rise of

corporate power and corporate dominance of the global economic landscape, and the increasing gap between the rich and poor. That’s not to say other economic justice battles on behalf of workers, unions and the poor aren’t equality important. Still, with more than a 100 living wage victories around the country, and campaigns in the pipeline, it’s clear the time for living wage has come.

Consider this statement from the Brennan Center for Justice, a contributor to this kit:

“In the first phase over the past decade, the living wage movement has made dramatic progress. Ordinances requiring businesses that perform sub- contracted public services to pay decent wages and provide health benefits are now an established ‘best practice.’ For many advocates, the idea of a ‘liv- ing wage’ serves progressives much as ‘family values’ serves conservatives—as an emphasis on the core needs and values that bind our communities and that are threatened by our nation’s eroding job and safety net standards.”

One of the hallmarks of the living wage movement has been the deep connection to grassroots communities. In the 10 years of living wage organizing, disparate com- munities have forged new coalitions informed by the grassroots perspective. Local advocacy groups, partnered with labor and other allies, supported by national resources and inspired by the stories of workers themselves, have championed the main message of living wage. This message is simple but bold and maybe even radical: Those who work should not live in poverty. “Winning Wages: A Media Kit for Successful Living Wage Strategies” is to our knowledge the first “best practices” comprehensive resource for media and PR on living wage ever produced. It is designed for the grassroots activist in mind. Inside these pages you will find a bounty of information, experience and insight provided by activists in the field and by seasoned PR professionals serving the economic justice movement. On a personal note, I remember growing up in a pro-labor family. My father was an active member of his union when he worked in open-pit copper mines in the deserts of southern Arizona. Often I would witness him and his co-workers talk about wages, working conditions, benefits and the power collective bargaining gave them to earn a respectable living and provide for their families. Like my dad, most of these workers were Latino. The power of the voice of the worker still resonates in my ears and to this day informs my commitment to social justice. I’ve always sided with the underdog, particu- larly when it comes to economic justice issues. And living wage battles are all about lifting some of the most vulnerable—the working poor and people of color. As a long-time communications professional I understand the power of the media to influence debate and affect policy. When we go forward to the media and seize the spotlight we not only grab the headlines but put a human face on the issue. We must spin our side of the story through compelling human interest drama, well-presented facts and research, effective media messages, and attention-getting media events,

(cont.)

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INTRODUCTION

PART 1

Note From the Author, cont.

among other PR tactics. I started the SPIN Project in 1997 to grow the capacity of grassroots activists to do more strategic and effective media advocacy. At the core of our work is the belief that communications should be central to our social justice campaigns, not viewed as an “add on” that we get to once everything else has been done. This kit offers models for doing better media work. It’s about growing capacity and media leadership. This kit also contextualizes living wage into the broader perspective of economic justice. Although most of the material here is specific to living wage campaigns, we include additional thoughts and tactics that help us understand the deeper context. Raising wages to a decent, livable level is the goal. But ultimately it’s about much more than that. It’s about living in a society in which all share in prosperity. It’s about ending the pain and indignity of poverty. It’s about all of us reaping our investment in democracy. It’s about economic and social justice for all. We hope this kit is a resource for you as you embark on a living wage battle, or any economic justice struggle. The insight offered here is transferable to many different kinds of fights. The time has come to spin for our lives, and for a living wage.

time has come to spin for our lives, and for a living wage. Robert Bray WHAT

Robert Bray

WHAT IS THE SPIN PROJECT?

The SPIN Project provides technical media assistance to nonprofit public-interest organizations across the nation that want to influence debate, shape public opinion and garner positive media attention. SPIN offers public relations consulting, including comprehensive media training and intensive media strategizing and planning.

SPIN stands for Strategic Press Information Network. We are growing the capacity of organizations to get their voices heard and do more effective media work on issues important to the future of our society. The project was created in January 1997. It is housed at the Independent Media Institute, a nonprofit organization located in San Francisco.

We believe the time is now for organizations to boldly engage the press and communicate their values and frame their issues. We want to help people make their voices heard. We seek a stronger democracy in which people can enhance the public discourse and actively participate and live to their full potential. This is what drives our work at the SPIN Project.

The SPIN Project works with a broad range of social policy, advocacy and grassroots organizations, all of which are work-

ing to strengthen both democracy and public participation. They typically focus on issues concerning civil rights, human rights, social justice and the environment. SPIN honors the multiracial, multicultural, diverse constituencies of the groups we train. We consistently work with people of a wide range of ages, sexual orientations, ethnicities and incomes.

We travel constantly, training and strategizing with organiza- tions in the field. Annually, SPIN covers tens of thousands of miles, training hundreds of people as we travel from state to state. Our work has taken us from barrios to boardrooms, from Native American reservations to national activist conferences in major U.S. cities.

For more information contact us at:

SPIN Project Independent Media Institute 77 Federal Street, 2nd Floor San Francisco, CA 94107 (415) 294-1420 ext. 309 E-mail: info @spinproject.org Visit our web site at: http://www.spinproject.org

4

Winning Wages Media Kit

NAVIGATING THIS MEDIA KIT: BEST PRACTICES

SECTIONS

The kit is divided into seven sections, plus resources and contacts, so activists may pick and choose the information they need and build from the lessons of each section.

PART ONE: “Introduction” (this section), sets the stage with words from the funder of this kit, the author, and a little bit about the kit itself.

PART TWO: “The Living Wage Big Picture,presents an overview of living wage in the broader context of progressive economic justice; plus an updated list of living wage laws; and a piece that links living wage to our struggle to end racism and empower people of color.

PART THREE: “Media Basics,” provides elementary information media activists should grasp before launching major PR campaigns.

PART FOUR: “Framing and Messaging,” perhaps the core of the kit; focuses on honing messages, framing the issue (tactical spot framing and more in-depth framing analysis), delivering the message through effective messengers, living wage values, and the opposition.

PART FIVE: “Nuts and Bolts of Getting the Message Out” is a comprehensive survey of numerous PR tactics, ranging from press kits to pitching reporters to using the Internet to tracking coverage.

PART SIX: “Campaign Strategies” provides a media plan template for your campaign plus several case studies on typical and not-so-typical living wage fights. Media and legal strategies also covered.

PART SEVEN: “The Future of Living Wage” charts trends, spotlights youth, offers a case study on what to do after a campaign loss, and touches on “beyond living wage” strategies in a time of eco- nomic downturn.

RESOURCES points activists toward where to go for help and more information.

CONTACTS is a handy list of all contributors and numerous living wage and other “players.”

ADDENDA & NOTES is for future updates and activist notes. Note: Got information or a case study we should consider for this kit? Contact us at the SPIN Project (previous page).

Winning Wages Media Kit

In your hand is a kit containing “best practices” that will help you work better with the media.

Special Notebook Format

B y packaging this information in a notebook we have

tional pieces. Expect updates throughout the ongoing

ensured this media kit can be updated with new and addi-

campaign for living wage. Also, you can customize this kit and make it a real “workbook” for your own campaign simply by adding items to the notebook. Plus, the notebook format means you can take items out, such as the reporter intake form, the spokesperson tracking form and the many other models, and photocopy them for wider dis- tribution and marking up. Case studies, tip sheets, check lists, models and other pages help activists make the information real and practical for their own situations. Contributors share their experiences in the spirit of learning from others (and not reinventing the wheel!).

What This Kit Is Not

This publication is not the living wage media “bible.” While fairly comprehensive, it’s not exhaustive—there’s always room for one more case study, one more model and example. This kit is also not the “Organizing 101” primer for living wage. Other groups have produced that kit, such as ACORN’s essential Living Wage Campaigns—An Activist’s Guide to Building the Movement for Economic Justice (see the Resources section). This kit focuses on media. It is an activist-friendly, best practices kit that helps build a good foundation for growing your capacity for effective media.

Who Is This Kit For, What Will It Teach You?

Engaging in progressive, proactive media work requires a sig- nificant commitment of an organization’s resources and a step up in its public profile. This is especially true for groups and activists in “campaign mode”: high-pressure, time-constrained media “war room” situations. This kit is designed to help national and grassroots organizations maximize their media potential. This kit was prepared primarily with groups considering a living wage campaign in mind. However, its information and lessons are totally transferable to just about any social change effort.

(cont.)

5

INTRODUCTION

PART 1

Navigating This Media Kit: Best Practices

Winning Wages: A Media Kit for Successful Living Wage Strategies is for activists and organizations who:

Want to integrate media work into other campaign activities, including organizing, research, policy/ advocacy/lobbying, integrate media work into other campaign activities, including organizing, research, policy/ advocacy/lobbying, fundraising and public education. We do not see media as standing outside those activities, but as integral to the overall campaign.

Are considering a living wage campaign, or expanding or evolving their current living wage situation. living wage campaign, or expanding or evolving their current living wage situation.

Are not involved in a “classic” living wage ordinance campaign, but view media as an important component of their broader economic justice efforts.

component of their broader economic justice efforts. Can absorb intensified media scrutiny and responsibili-

Can absorb intensified media scrutiny and responsibili- ties. We presume if you are embarking on significant living wage or other economic justice battles you have the organizational infrastructure and financial and staff resources to sustain such an effort. If not, you might want to focus on organizational development before engaging in proactive media work.

development before engaging in proactive media work. Want to work with the media, not against it.

Want to work with the media, not against it. Although opposition to living wage laws often comes in the form of editorial opinions by daily newspapers who want to protect their pro-business standing and advertising base—and despite the frustration this causes us—this kit is designed to give you resources and skills to engage the media in a fair and respectful manner. This kit is for those who believe in treating journalists with profes- sional respect, and being a resource for, not an obstacle to, reporters.

and being a resource for, not an obstacle to, reporters. 6 Get a “buzz” from spinning.

6

Get a “buzz” from spinning. If you understand how reporters do their jobs, how they think, what their editors demand, and how news is made, you can do a better job spinning your side’s message. Spin is fun! Spin is fun!

Have news to make. Do not waste reporters’ time with non-news. Have a story to tell and be newsworthy. be newsworthy.

Don’t have a lot of money to spend on expensive advertising campaigns, PR consultants, focus group/polling research and other costly activities. This does not mean those activities are not important. Indeed, they should strongly be considered and budgeted for if possible. But you won’t need a lot of money to do many of the tactics suggested in this kit. You will need some money and in several cases even significant financial resources, so plan accordingly.

even significant financial resources, so plan accordingly. Believe media work requires planning. We suggest

Believe media work requires planning. We suggest reality-based tactics here. We also present the rich range of possibilities. Ultimately, however, it is up to the activists to decide what is realistic and do-able for their campaign.

to decide what is realistic and do-able for their campaign. Understand there is no “magic silver

Understand there is no “magic silver bullet” solution, frame, message or tactic. It is never possible to predict precisely what will work or not when it comes to PR. Even the best plans can flop. Don’t take it personally. Find what

works for you and do it.

PR. Even the best plans can flop. Don’t take it personally. Find what works for you
PR. Even the best plans can flop. Don’t take it personally. Find what works for you

Winning Wages Media Kit

PART 1

INTRODUCTION

Winning Wages Media Kit

Acknowledgements

W inning Wages: A Media Kit for Successful Living Wage Strategies is the result of years of experience and know-how from numerous leaders in the living wage movement. We are thankful to all the contributors to this kit for sharing their

experiences so that others may learn. We are grateful to community activists for their perseverance and dedication. Special thanks to Tides Foundation and its staff for making this effort possible.

In particular, our deep appreciation goes to Sujin Lee, Tides Community Fellow; Ronald White, Philanthropic Services Director; Jane Lin, Philanthropic Services Assistant; Christopher Herrera, Communications Director; and Idelisse Malavé, Executive Director. Also, we offer warm gratitude to Sandra Davis, former Tides Foundation Community Fellow, who spearheaded the early stages of this project. Of course, this would not be possible without the generosity and leadership of the donors to Tides Foundation’s Bridging Economic Divide Initiative. Thank you. I would like to give special recognition to Max Toth, managing editor and project coordinator of this kit. Max, the ultimate multi-tasker, helped transform the project from a concept to something actually concrete. He kept it moving and organized and made certain the progressive mission stayed true to heart. Stephanie Syjuco expertly designed it to keep all the pieces together and accessible to activists. This kit would not have happened without the involvement of various notable figures in the living wage movement. Jen Kern of ACORN is a pathfinder and true leader who shaped the direction of this effort immensely. Madeline Janis Aparicio of LAANE helped inspire the idea for this kit and gave it an important early boost. Contributors of case studies and essays all must be acknowledged. The talented staff of the Brennan Center played a significant role. And thanks to George Lakoff for offering his esteemed insight. My colleagues at the SPIN Project, in particular Holly Minch, director, were always supportive and encouraging. Staff at the Independent Media Institute, in particular Don Hazen and Octavia Morgan, all pitched in. But perhaps our greatest appreciation is offered to the low-income workers —the maids, the farm workers, the security agents, the clean-up crews, the day laborers—many of them people of color and all of whom want and deserve human dignity, a decent living wage and a way out of poverty. This kit is dedicated to them.

For more information contact us at:

SPIN Project Independent Media Institute 77 Federal Street, 2nd Floor San Francisco, CA 94107

(415) 294-1420 ext. 309 E-mail: info @spinproject.org Visit our web site at: http://www.spinproject.org

(415) 294-1420 ext. 309 E-mail: info @spinproject.org Visit our web site at: http://www.spinproject.org —Robert Bray 7

—Robert Bray

7

TOWARD A VISION OF ECONOMIC JUSTICE:

STATE OF THE LIVING WAGE STRUGGLE

By Jen Kern, Living Wage Resource Center, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now! (ACORN)

No one could have predicted, on a cold Baltimore day in December 1994, that the seeds of a national grassroots movement were being sown. To this day, that movement is flourishing.

So why—after almost a decade—is the living wage movement still newsworthy? And how do we
So why—after almost a decade—is the living wage movement still newsworthy? And how do we
So why—after almost a decade—is the living wage movement still newsworthy? And how do we

So why—after almost a decade—is the living wage movement still newsworthy? And how do we see to it that it stays that way?

almost a decade—is the living wage movement still newsworthy? And how do we see to it

B ack on that day in Baltimore a powerful labor-community coalition brought to fruition its campaign for a local living wage law after a protracted battle. The victory set in motion what columnist Robert Kuttner, writing in 1997, called

“the most exciting (and underreported) grassroots enterprise to emerge since the civil rights movement.”

“The phrase [living wage] is seeping into the political vernacular and changing the dynamics of political discussion.”

Sometimes the most succinct articulation of an effort’s success comes from its detractors. As campaigns spring up everywhere and advocates take the living wage message into the media, consider the above quote by John Doyle of the anti-living wage Employment Policies Institute.

More than 100 ordinances—and thousands of media hits later—the living wage movement not only arguably merits this flattering comparison, but has also shed its “underreported” past. As of this writing, there are at least 75 ongoing campaigns in cities such as Sacramento, Indianapolis, Knoxville and Atlanta. The fight for fair wages has spilled over into local school boards and state legislatures and exploded onto college campuses, with dozens of current campaigns at colleges and universities in every region of the country.

On the Media’s Radar Screen

The impressive efforts of community groups, labor unions, religious leaders, civil rights advocates and others to force the issue of the working poor onto the agendas of city councils, county commissions and into

ballot boxes across the country have not gone unnoticed. Articles in Business Week, Time, USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and TV spots on CNN, Fox News, ABC and Oprah (to name a few) testify both to the mainstream appeal of the living wage issue and the hard work of living wage organizers everywhere. So why—after almost a decade—is the living wage movement still newsworthy? And how do we see to it that it stays that way? Simply put, living wage campaigns seek to pass enforceable laws requiring private businesses that benefit from public money to pay their workers a living wage. A living wage is typically defined as at least enough to

bring a family of four to the federal poverty line, currently $8.85 an hour (though campaigns have won wages as high as $13 an hour). Commonly, the ordinances cover public employees and employees of firms who hold large city or county service contracts or benefit from public tax dollars in the form of tax abatements or other economic development subsidies.

Our message has been straightforward:

People who work should not live in poverty, and limited public dollars should not subsidize poverty-wage work. Public dollars should be leveraged for the public good

—reserved for those private sector employers who demonstrate a commitment to providing decent, family-supporting jobs in our local communities.

(cont.)

Winning Wages Media Kit

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THE LIVING WAGE BIG PICTURE

PART 2

Toward a Vision of Economic Justice, cont.

Living wage campaigns force elected officials and candidates for public office to move beyond rhetoric

Living wage campaigns force elected officials and candidates for public office to move beyond rhetoric and declare their position on a concrete progressive program.

and candidates for public office to move beyond rhetoric and declare their position on a concrete

The Message Evolves, the Movement Expands

Over the years, however, the living wage phrase and message have been adapted to a range of campaigns around improving labor standards, workers’ right-to- organize and corporate accountability. As such, the living wage concept now usefully frames efforts to raise city or state minimum wages above the shameful federal level of $5.15 just as well as campaigns to demand that public money not be used for union-busting or that subsidized companies return public money if they fail to meet established standards. The living wage message is universal and compelling precisely because it is rooted in the increasingly grim economic reality faced by low income workers and their families: the failure of the

minimum wage to keep pace with inflation; massive cuts in welfare and unsupported work requirements pressuring wages downward; and the slow economy resulting in devastating federal and state cuts to crucial social service. Add to that the growth of low-wage service sector jobs; the weakening of labor unions through

active union busting; rampant no-strings-attached corporate welfare that depletes tax dollars while keeping workers poor; the widening gap between rich and the poor; and a depressing new focus on the Business of War, which threatens to further constrain already shamefully limited resources and snuff out any political will to put people first. Because living wage campaigns have arisen in this larger context—and to the extent they are directed by organizers who understand this big picture—the operating framework and media message for the movement actually addresses a broad range of fundamental issues around work, fairness and democratic accountability. The move- ment’s proven ability to deliver real economic benefits to workers who need it most is only a part of its potential power and importance. Living wage campaigns force elected officials and candidates for public office to move beyond rhetoric and

declare their position on a concrete progressive program. They challenge the reverence for the (supposedly) free market and the privileging of an abstract corporate bottom line over the real life baseline below which no family

10

should be allowed to fall. The campaigns heighten public awareness of the difference between corporate welfare and real economic development. They promote public scrutiny of practices like privatization and the “temping out” of public work. They promote the idea that any economic decision affecting an entire community should advance the well-being of the community, and that, in a true democracy, such decisions must be subject to public review.

A Tremendous Organizing Opportunity for a Progressive Agenda

Most significantly, these campaigns provide oppor- tunities for organized labor, low-income community groups, faith-based and advocacy organizations to forge and institutionalize alliances that allow future collaborative action as part of a sustainable long-term fight for economic justice. Like other base-building organizations, the Association of Community Organizations For Reform Now! (ACORN) continues to view living wage campaigns as useful tools around which to organize our low- and moderate-income

membership. Toward that end, we will fight alongside our allies to consolidate

and expand the victories we have won while broadening the scope of demands that are marshaled and delivered under the living wage banner —such as real health

benefits, paid vacation, worker retention, local hiring, corporate disclosure and language that fosters union organizing. As we move ahead into our second decade of living wage organizing we must not lose sight of our ambitious goal of economic justice. If we as organizers keep our eyes on the prize—and integrate that vision into our media message—this movement should remain newsworthy for

As we move ahead into our second decade of living wage organizing we must not lose sight of our ambitious goal of economic justice.

many years to come.

organizing we must not lose sight of our ambitious goal of economic justice. many years to

Winning Wages Media Kit

PART 2

THE LIVING WAGE BIG PICTURE

Living Wage Wins (and a Few Repeals)

Prepared by Jen Kern, Living Wage Resource Center, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now! (ACORN)

Listed below, from most recent to earliest passed, are places that have enacted living wage laws.

Total = 101 (cities and counties only) June, 2003

2003

• Ingham County, MI

• Arlington, VA

• Prince George’s County, MD (June)

• Santa Fe, NM (February)

—minimum wage

• West Palm Beach County, FL (February)

2002

• Bellingham, WA

• Louisville, KY

• Cincinnati, OH (November)

• Cumberland County, NJ (December)

• Camden, NJ (December)

• Burlington, VT (November)

• Charlottesville, VA (November)

• Richmond, CA (October)

• Washtenaw County, MI (October)

• Hempstead, Long Island, NY (Oct); repealed before

implementation 12/01

• Monroe County, MI (October)

repealed 3/03

• Ashland, OR (September)

• Oyster Bay, NY (August)

• Gloucester County, NJ (August)

• Suffolk County, NY (July)

• Pittsburgh, PA (May)

Implementation on hold

• San Fernando, CA (April)

• Denver, CO (February)

• Warren, MI (January)

1999

• Corvallis, OR (November)

• Hartford, CT (September)

• Tucson, AZ (September)

• Buffalo, NY (August)

• Los Angeles County, CA (June)

• Ypsilanti, MI (June)

• Ypsilanti Township, MI (June)

• Somerville, MA (May)

• Miami-Dade County, FL

• Cambridge, MA (May)

• Hayward, CA

• Madison, WI (March)

• Dane County, WI (March)

1995

• Milwaukee, WI (November)

• Santa Clara County, CA

1994

• Baltimore, MD (December)

1991

• Gary, IN*

1988

• Des Moines, IA* (amended 1996)

SCHOOL BOARDS

• Milwaukee Public Schools

(January, 1996)

• Richmond, VA School Board

• Westchester County, NY

as of 3/02

• Hudson County, NJ (January)

(March, 2001)

(November)

• Santa Monica, CA (July);

• Taylor, MI (November)

repealed before implementation

1998

UNIVERSITIES

• New York City, NY (November)

• Broward County, FL (October)

• Watsonville, CA (September)

• Fairfax, CA (August)

• Southfield, MI (July)

• Oxnard, CA (July)

• Montgomery County, MD (June)

• Port of Oakland, CA (March)

• Santa Fe, NM (February)

• New Orleans, LA (Feb)

—minimum wage; overturned by Louisiana Supreme Court, 9/02

• Hazel Park, MI (February);

repealed 6/02 in reaction to state threat to cut revenue sharing to LW cities

• Marin County, CA (January)

• Pima County, AZ (January)

2001

• Salem, OR

11/02

• Ventura County, CA (May)

• Miami Beach, FL (April)

• Pittsfield Township, MI (April)

• Eastpointe, MI (March)

• Missoula, MT (March)

• Ann Arbor, MI (March)

• Ferndale, MI (February)

2001

• Rochester, NY (January)

• Meriden, CT (November)

• Santa Cruz, CA (October)

• Berkeley, CA & Marina (October)

• Eau Claire County, WI (Sept)

• San Francisco, CA (August)

• St. Louis, MO (August);

overturned by lawsuit; 7/01; amended and reinstated by

Board of Aldermen 7/02

• Cleveland, OH (June)

• San Jose, CA (November)

• Detroit, MI (November)

• Multnomah County, OR (October)

• Boston, MA (September);

expanded Oct. 2001

• Pasadena, CA (September)

• Cook County, IL (September)

• Chicago, IL (July)

• San Antonio, TX (July)

• Portland, OR (amended 1998)

• Oakland, CA (March)

• Durham, NC (January)

1997

• West Hollywood, CA (October)

• Duluth, MN (July)

• Milwaukee County, WI (May)

• New Haven, CT (April)

• Los Angeles, CA (March)

• Minneapolis, MN (March)

• St. Paul, MN (January)

• Santa Cruz County, CA

• Alexandria, VA (June)

1996

(December)

• Toledo, OH (June)

• Bozeman, MT (December)

• New Britain, CT (December)

• Omaha, NE (April);

repealed: 9/01

• New York City, NY (September)

• Jersey City, NJ (June)

• Wesleyan University (April, 2000)

• Stanford University (2002)

• Harvard University (February,

2002)

Campaigns are currently

underway in more than 75

additional cities, counties, and

universities such as New York

City, Little Rock, Jacksonville,

Atlanta, Sacramento, Richmond,

VA, Manhattan, KS, Knoxville, TN, University of Pittsburgh,

Swarthmore College, Valdosta

State University.

* Although there are examples of

cities requiring labor standards in

exchange for public investment

going back decades, Baltimore

is widely regarded to be the first living wage victory in what we

have come to refer to as "the living

wage movement.”

Winning Wages Media Kit

11

IN LIVING COLOR:

LIVING WAGE, RACE & THE CONTINUING STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE

By Steve Williams, Executive Director, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER)

In most communities, the majority of low-wage workers who see raises after the passage of a living wage bill are people of color. This stands to reason given the strong interrelation between race and low-wage employment in the United States.

A s we know, the living wage movement is sweeping the nation. In an effort to try to reduce poverty, strong coalitions of workers and community

members have come together to pass living wage bills that require all employers who receive any form of subsidy from the local government to pay their workers a living wage. More than one hundred communities have passed their own living wage bills since the passage of the first one in Baltimore in 1994. Just as it has since the nation’s founding—from the murder of Native Americans to the enslavement and disen- franchisement of African-Americans to the internment of Japanese-Americans to the hyper-exploitation of Latinos to the incarceration of Arab and Middle Eastern people today—racism plays a defining role in shaping the economic reality of people in the United States.

Lessons for the Conscious Organizer

Many of the organizers and workers who have built the living wage movement are deeply committed to building a movement that sees the end of racial, gender and economic injustice. We see that our principle tasks are to: (1) build the capacity of low-wage workers, particularly low-wage workers of color, to lead campaigns designed to meet their needs; and (2) raise the consciousness of low-wage workers to better understand the root causes of poverty and inequality. Living wage campaigns offer us opportunities, if seized upon, to accomplish so much more than just passing a law that raises the wages of some workers. Many conscious organizers hope our work building local coalitions to pass a living wage bill would also help move us closer to building a broad-based movement for racial and economic justice. But despite all of our successes and our best intentions, conscious organizers can still do more to take full advantage of the potential of living wage campaigns to expose and undermine racism and poverty.

12

Our experience promoting a living wage bill in San Francisco gives good example to how much more we can do. For more than two years, a broad-based coalition of trade union locals, community organizations, religious groups and service agencies was out in the community working to build support for the living wage ordinance. The members of our coalition came from all over the city, including

African-American workfare workers, Latino restaurant employees and Filipino airport baggage screeners. The membership of our coalition was predominantly people of color, which was in stark

contrast to our opposition. In July of 2000, after months of lobbying and back- room negotiations, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors finally passed the living wage bill. With this bill, we succeeded in passing a living wage law that raised the wages of 21,500 workers to more than $9.00 plus health benefits. This clearly represented an important victory for low-wage workers in San Francisco. But, our coalition could have done better in meeting the two principle tasks of the conscious organizer.

Living wage ordinances have been tremendously beneficial for low-income communities of color. In most communities, the majority of low-wage workers who see raises after the passage of a living wage bill are people of color.

Empowering Workers of Color

Looking back, we can see missed opportunities that others beginning living wage campaigns should consider. We could have promoted more aggressively the strategic and tactical leadership of low-wage workers of color. Even though we had done an exceptional job in building a multi-racial base of support for the living wage, there

(cont.)

Winning Wages Media Kit

PART 2

THE LIVING WAGE BIG PICTURE

In Living Color, cont.

were very few people of color in leadership of the coalition. The leaders of the coalition were the leaders of the various organizations that made up the living wage coalition —who happened, in most cases, to be of European descent. Creating more opportunities

for low-wage leadership puts low- wage workers of color in a better position to lead campaigns in the future. Developing low-wage workers’ leadership during the campaign strengthens the campaign and would be easy to do. For example, at least one low-wage worker from each organization could shadow their organization’s representative on the coalition’s steering committee. Conscious organizers could also sponsor regular leadership development and political education trainings for low- wage workers.

When our

living wage

coalition finally brought

our proposal to the local Board of Supervisors, the

opponents of bill, who were

the living wage overwhelmingly

of European descent, insisted that nothing short of economic Armageddon

would befall

San Francisco

if the bill was adopted.

 

—once and for all.

if the bill was adopted.   —once and for all. Building Power for the Future As

Building Power for the Future

As a movement, the growing number of living wage

campaigns is important because it offers a tool to begin reducing poverty by moving money into the pockets of some of the lowest-paid workers. Living wage campaigns also offer

an opportunity for greater self- determination as working people play an even greater role exercising control over the expenditure of the community’s resources. Living wage campaigns offer an incredible amount of potential in the effort to rectify the imbalance of power in our communities. But that will not happen automatically or just because we pass our legislation. We can only shift power relations if we build strong organizations of low-wage workers with strategic and tactical

leadership from people of color. We can only build a movement for social and economic justice if we raise low-wage workers’ consciousness of the root causes of problems in our communities. There is plenty to be proud of and much more to gain from our living wage campaigns. These campaigns have helped to light a fire in the spirits of low-income communities across the United States. As conscious organizers, we must stoke that fire and help low-wage workers identify and confront the problems of structural poverty and racism in our communities and around the globe. Meanwhile, we have to be mindful of our central tasks. We have to ground our work in a vigilant anti-racist perspective and practice. Only then can we move closer to winning social and economic justice around the globe

Framing the Opportunity

Conscious organizers within any living wage coalition should seize the opportunity to highlight the reality of how racism shapes economic disparity. Throughout the two-year campaign, the living wage coalition responded to the opposition’s attacks by saying low-wage workers deserved a higher wage. The racial dynamics of a mob of white businessmen arguing against pay increases for thousands of low-wage workers, most of whom are people of color, cannot be ignored. In some spot-media situations we may not have the time to fully explain the real depth and breadth of the issue. Still, we can always be more vocal—in our background briefings and in our slogans —that living wage laws are just as much about racial justice as they are about economic justice. For example, in addition to declaring that low-wage workers deserved a living wage, we could have opened up the frame. A message demanding that we “stop subsidizing economic racism” would have opened up more organizing opportunities and helped us make additional useful connections with ethnic and community media outlets. As conscious organizers, we should always seize opportuni- ties to frame our campaign with an understanding of racism and help deepen low-wage workers’ comprehension of the interrelation between racism and poverty.

Winning Wages Media Kit

13

MEDIA DO’S AND DON’TS

The following tips comprise a primer for making your voice heard, talking about your issue, speaking with reporters, spinning your message and other basics tactics. What you should and should not do are valuable lessons not only for living wage media work but whenever you go to the press with news on any issue.

Don’t just talk about what’s wrong, emphasize how it could be better. every four ”.

Don’t just talk

about what’s wrong, emphasize how it could be better.

Don’t just talk about what’s wrong, emphasize how it could be better. every four ”.

every four

”.

Don’t just talk about what’s wrong, emphasize how it could be better. every four ”.
Don’t just talk about what’s wrong, emphasize how it could be better. every four ”.

Tips on how to move your message with the media

Be for something, not just against something. Often we focus only on what’s bad—how impoverished workers are who don’t make a living wage, how bad employers are who don’t pay their employees a living wage. Highlighting the problem and its consequences on our communities is

important, but we should also communicate what we stand for. In other words, don’t just talk about what’s wrong, emphasize how it could be better. One way to do this is to articulate your values in your message. What do you stand for? How do you want workers to be treated? What kind of community do you want to live in? Offer an affirmative, justice-seeking, empowering vision.

Check your statistics, jargon, rhetoric. Living wage campaigns and broader economic justice struggles inherently contain complex economic and political analysis and dynamics. Often there is a tendency to overwhelm with numbers and factoids as if that would automatically convince anyone of the need to pass a living wage bill. Translate numbers into something easier to grasp. For example, instead of saying

“seventy-five percent of voters approve a living wage ordinance,” say, “three out of

Further, check your rhetoric. You are trying to pass a living wage law, or

secure more rights and benefits for workers, not “dismantle two hundred years of oppression and capitalistic exploitation.” (See “Pass the Brother-in-Law Test” below.)

Always tell the truth and be factually accurate. Trust and integrity are critical in your relationships with reporters while giving voice to those who deserve to make a living wage. Strong relationships can mean fair and balanced coverage of your issues. Mislead a reporter and your integrity is destroyed. Besides, isn't this about telling the truth about how workers should be treated and paid? Be accurate with your statistics. That includes the number of people affected by a living wage ordinance; any analysis of the economic impact of living wage law; and so forth. Sometimes in the “frenzy” of a living wage political campaign there might be a tendency to play fast and loose with numbers—resist this.

Respect reporters' professionalism. Journalists are extremely proud and protective of their professionalism. It pays for you to respect that. After all, don't you like to be treated professionally? Do not expect reporters to be “cheerleaders” for the underpaid. Don’t presume they are as excited about your living wage story as you are. That’s not their job. Their job is to report on

(cont.)

Winning Wages Media Kit

15

MEDIA BASICS

PART 3

Media Do’s and Don’ts, cont.

stories in a fair and balanced manner. When they do this, thank them.

Never “wing it.” If you do not know the answer to a reporter's question do not make something If you do not know the answer to a reporter's question do not make something up. You will most likely say some- thing that is either off message or regrettable—or both. If a reporter asks you a question and you do not know the answer, say so and either introduce someone who does know, or find out the reporter's deadline and promise to get back with the answer by deadline. And make sure you do it.

Do not presume a reporter knows what you are talking about. Many of us work for organizations that use all kinds of acronyms, jargon, leftist rhetoric, Many of us work for organizations that use all kinds of acronyms, jargon, leftist rhetoric, mission-statement talk, and insider lingo. “Community Benefits Initiative” might be an example of such language; what does it mean? At least take the time to explain it. Translate all terms into language reporters and audiences will understand. Take, for example, the phrase “economic justice.” Translate it so it means something to people: the right to earn a decent paycheck so you can afford a quality education for your children, put food on the table and improve your life.

Pass the “Brother-In-Law” Test To see if your message passes muster with regular folks, conduct the useful “brother-in-law test” (or sister-in-law, or family friend, or neighbor). Pick a relative, friend or acquaintance who is not associated with your cause

friend or acquaintance who is not associated with your cause or organization, and see if they

or organization, and see if they understand the issue. Can they grasp the concept and understand how it affects them readily? Do they “get” the issue? These folks may be your target audience at some point in your campaign. It pays to translate for them.

Speak in soundbites. Condense your message down to ten seconds or less when doing interviews with reporters, in particular broadcast media. Do not try to explain everything there is to know about decent wages, workers rights, economic justice and so forth in your soundbite. Obviously, take the time to educate reporters about the nuances and details of an issue. But when the tape is rolling, speak in a soundbite.

issue. But when the tape is rolling, speak in a soundbite. Always return reporters' phone calls.

Always return reporters' phone calls. Make sure you take reporters' phone calls. If you regularly miss their calls they will Make sure you take reporters' phone calls. If you regularly miss their calls they will stop calling. Be a resource even if you do not know the answer to a question. Tell a reporter: “You know, that's not my turf; but here are three people who do work on that. You should call them. Here are their numbers.” Reporters will appreciate the help.

Meet reporters' deadlines. Find out about reporters' deadlines: They live by them. The newspaper has to go to the printer; the TV and radio show have to air. These are not flexible times. If you have not called back by 3 or 4pm. at print newspapers, the reporter will get very nervous. By 4:30pm you are out of the story. The same holds for TV news a couple of hours before air time.

same h olds for TV news a couple of hours before air time. If something big

If something big is happening in the news that connects to your issue, make yourself available at deadline time and you may get into the story. For example, is an article appears about, say, earnings trends of workers in your state, that might be an opportunity to get a follow-up piece on the impact of a living wage measure on those trends. Be there. You may only get one shot. When something hot is going on make sure you are in touch and know what is happening. Check your voice mail regularly. Furthermore, if a reporter sympathetic to your issue calls on deadline for a quote and you do not know what is going on, ask them. Reporters may describe the news for you (“sources have told us that several city council members are wavering on the living wage vote”), knowing that

(cont.)

DO NOT SIMPLY ANSWER REPORTERS' QUESTIONS, RESPOND TO THEM.

mEvery time you speak to a reporter —on the phone, at a rally with a camera in your face or to a reporter at a press conference—consider the interaction as an opportunity to move your message. Do not answer with what you think the reporter wants you to say, or what your opponents are saying, or with a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Respond with your message.

Obviously, you have to answer some questions a reporter asks you: your name, age and affiliation, for example. But even this can be an opportunity to communicate your broader message.

For example, when one activist was asked her age she responded: "I'm 42 years old, and like many people in their 40s I am concerned about the economic strength of our community. That means paying workers a living wage, because nobody who works should live in poverty. That’s why I’m urging the city council to vote ‘yes’ on the living wage ordinance."

This activist not only answered the reporter's question, but also used the occasion to respond and advance a strategic message. Spin your message, not just the answer to the question.

b
b

16

Winning Wages Media Kit

PART 3

MEDIA BASICS

Media Do’s and Don’ts, cont.

 

If something big is happening

in

the news that connects to

your issue, make yourself available at deadline time and you may get into the story.

 
 
the news that connects to your issue, make yourself available at deadline time and you may

it will help you make a comment. They are not necessari- ly putting words in your mouth, although sometimes it is easy to tell what kind of quote they want. Usually, the article is more or less done and your quote will serve to round it off. This is an excellent opportunity to make sure your point of view is included. Listen carefully. Think quickly. And stay on your message. Finally, consider staging media events and living wage photo ops at a time when local TV can cover then live. If the event

is big enough and visually provocative, a camera truck might be sent to cover it. Provide your cell phone to reporters so

they can reach you at the event. A slow news day may result in producers trying to fill time, and if your event is on their radar screen, it might be covered.

Always appear more reasonable than your opponents. Whoever appears more reasonable is ahead of the game. This does not mean you can never be angry or sometimes even outraged. But be extremely conscious of using words that are sensationalistic or that portray your opponents as something they are not. It is important to be poised and confident in the press. Stake out your ground in positive terms and check the extreme language. Say what you stand for and how it will improve our communities, all the while putting your opponents on the defense. Be careful about labeling them. It may feel cathartic to call an employer who opposes a living wage a “slave-driving worker exploiter” but that language will probably alienate people and certainly does not communicate a strategic message. We can express anger in the press, but we have to learn how to channel and convert that rage into a message that moves people to awareness and action on our issues. But what if your opponent is reasonable? What if they are, say, the Chamber of Commerce or poised and composed business leaders who oppose living wage? What if they even appear to be considerate of worker issues? In other words, what if you can’t “out-reasonable” them? Then be more real. Be more “of the people,” community-oriented, in touch with regular folks.

Remember: “Three” is a trend. Three is a trend in the media—or so goes the old axiom. And trends are news. That means if you can find three examples of something—three companies in your area

Winning Wages Media Kit

now paying a living wage, three other communities in your region grappling with living wage ordinances, three workers affected—you will position the story for better coverage.

Drama sells. This is especially true about TV. Though it may reflect the sad “Fox News” state This is especially true about TV. Though it may reflect the sad “Fox News” state of American media, that is the reality. The point is: drama sells. Stage and package your news for maximum media impact. Do not spill blood, but include dramatic human- interest stories and poignant anecdotes, as well as compelling individuals and their testimonials. You must present your news so it contains some human drama. Pick a setting that visually demonstrates the content of your message. Make your event as appealing, personal and dramatic as possible, without going overboard.

Visualize your story for TV. Television is a visual medium. For every eight or twelve seconds of “soundbites” you may Television is a visual medium. For every eight or twelve seconds of “soundbites” you may get into a TV news story, there will be another thirty to forty-five seconds of visual material shown in the background. Think how your message can be conveyed visually as well as verbally when planning your event. If you have a short piece of video that illustrates your message—such as workers marching or an interview with a living wage employee and his/her family) by all means give it to the reporter for use as “b-roll” (“background images and footage”).

use as “b-roll” (“background images and footage”). Personalize your story. Personalize your story to the media

Personalize your story.

Personalize your story to the media as much as possible. One easy way spokespersons can do this is by adding a personal attribute, such as: “As a low-income worker trying hard to make ends meet,” or, “As a parent…”.

Other examples include: “As a teacher

member…”, “As a small business owner…”.

”, “As a clergy

Think strategically. Think in terms of how media coverage affects your goals. As a community leader or someone responsible for an issue or organization, you are not seeking media coverage just to get your name in the newspaper. You are doing it because you have been entrusted by people in your community to have a leadership role and to achieve certain goals. Speaking to the press has implications not just for you and your organization, but for people around you. You have to think strategically about what you are saying and the impact it will have: How does it advance your issue? Your program? Your organization? How will it help you reach your goals? Think carefully about what you are

saying—and why.

Your organization? How will it help you reach your goals? Think carefully about what you are
Your organization? How will it help you reach your goals? Think carefully about what you are

17

FIVE STEPS TO SUCCESS

The following is a five-step process for making news. Every organization seeking media attention should follow this process in the order presented to maximize their media potential. What is the secret to scoring good press that will create change for your community and help you get economic justice for workers? Read on.

18

1. Establish Your Goals

Clearly articulate your desired goals before embarking on a media campaign. The goals drive press efforts—not the other way around. Everything you do in the media is designed to help you attain your goals. The goals should also be realistic.

Typical goals might be:

• Pass a living wage ordinance

• Give a voice to workers affected by living wage

• Secure endorsements by select opinion and political leaders

• Educate the public about the issue; challenge misconceptions

• Enhance the profile and visibility of your organization

• Build movement

2. Identify Your News

Do not waste reporters' time with something that is not news. What reports, surveys or briefing papers can you produce and release that will provide a new perspective? What media events that communicate real news can you stage? What information can you provide that will present a different twist to the story? How will the community be affected in new ways?

3. Frame the Issue for Maximum Media Impact

Do you always find yourself on the defense with your opposition framing the news instead of you framing it? The news is not just about your group or your report. It is about something much bigger, with more drama, that will impact more people at a timely moment (see How and Why to Frame Living Wage News, elsewhere in this kit).

4. Craft Your Strategic Media Messages

Condense your complicated issue down to two or three main messages. Discipline the message (see A Model For Your Living Wage Message, elsewhere in this kit).

5. Create a Media Plan

Your plan will have several components, including everything from identifying and pitching reporters, to placing op eds, to staging media events. A coordinated media plan will increase your success in moving your messages and having them "echoed" through the media (see The Living Wage Media Plan, elsewhere in this kit). Connect your media plan to your: (1) overall campaign goals; (2) ‘get out the vote’ electoral strategy; or (3) organizing/outreach strategy, as opposed to your

media plan being something run on its own.

(3) organizing/outreach strategy, as opposed to your media plan being something run on its own. Winning

Winning Wages Media Kit

TARGETING YOUR AUDIENCE

An important part of any public relations effort is targeting your audience. Who precisely are you trying to reach with your message? You may have several target audiences who need to receive your message, or you may have one specific audience. The targeted audience will help determine the scope of your media plan. Give your audience some thought before embarking on a media campaign. This will influence how you spend your valuable resources and time. This is good strategic planning.

1. Define Your Audience(s)

The target group for your living wage message may include:

• Elected officials

• Community residents

• Voters

• General media

• Community media

• Opinion-makers and other information “gatekeepers”

• Community leaders

• Alliances/organizers

• Unions

• People of color

• People of faith

• Women

• Youth

• Business leaders

• Academia (local economists, university figures, et al)

• Others

EXAMPLE AND QUESTION: Imagine you are releasing a new report on the impact of paying a living wage in your community.

The report contains economic analysis, survey of other cities with living wage laws, tracking data of wages in your area and state, commentary by local economists, opinions by political figures, case studies of workers, and more. You may want to release the report not long after announcing, say, a campaign targeted at companies and contractors who do business with your city. You want them to pay employees and contractors a decent, living wage.

Of the above list of possible target audiences, prioritize those you think are the most important. Who would be the most important targets of a message communicated in this report at this stage in the campaign?

Winning Wages Media Kit

2. Tailor Your Messages to Your Desired Audience

The value messages will be consistent across the board, but the action message in particular can change depending on the audience (see A Model for Your Living Wage Message in this kit).

EXAMPLE: Continuing with the target audiences above, let’s say that the Mayor’s office and the city council are the top message priorities at this stage, with the general media coming in right behind them.

Your media message might be something like this:

Message #1: The Problem “Many workers in Our Town, USA, are working two, three and more jobs just to make ends meet. Companies and developers who get tax breaks and other incentives are not sharing the benefits with the community by not paying employees a decent, living wage. This threatens the economic well-being of workers, their families and our community.”

Message #2: A Solution “Our report shows the positive economic impact of paying employees a living wage. It shows how other communities that have adopted a similar measure have benefited. People who work in our community should not live in poverty. Companies who do business here and receive benefits from our city should pay a living wage.”

Message #3: A Call to Action “City supervisors and the Mayor must take action and support the Community Benefits Living Wage Initiative. It’s about helping workers and their families reap the benefits of working hard, and about our community building economic strength.”

(cont.)

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MEDIA BASICS

PART 3

Targeting Your Audience, cont.

3. Plan Your Media for Your

Desired Audience

Why waste resources on a media plan that will not reach your targeted audience?

EXAMPLE: If business leaders are a desired target, pitch the business press or business shows and pages of the local media. If local residents are important, aim for the “Metro” section of the paper and community press, including people-of-color media that may serve affected neighborhoods. Aiming for politicians? Then stage a media event on the steps of City Hall or your state capitol and aim for political/financial columnists.

4. Make Sure Your Media Plan,

With its Targeted Community Audience(s), Dovetails With Your Local Organizing Efforts

Door-to-door flyering, a local community “speak out,” or other education efforts can be timed to coincide with the placing of an opinion editorial in the local paper, or the staging of a local media event. By targeting your audience and appropriate media you will maximize your resources and create a more effective

media plan.

and appropriate media you will maximize your resources and create a more effective media plan. 20

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Winning Wages Media Kit

MEDIA JARGON

It’s important to know the lexicon of the media and PR. Among other things, it allows you to speak with reporters from a more informed perspective. These jargon phrases are often heard by activists. Better to know what they mean so you can use them correctly.

Soundbite

A soundbite is a short, pithy, attention-getting quote that communicates the gist of your message. Most TV and radio broadcast “bites” last eight to ten seconds. In print, you will probably get one quote that fills up one short paragraph, maybe two if you are lucky. The best bites contain action words, puns or verbal twists—sometimes even a touch of humor. Do not attempt to explain everything in your bite; that is a sound banquet that will be edited down to just one quick quote.

EXAMPLES

1. “They used to say Wall Street is whizzing, that stocks

are up and the economy is good. It was whizzing all right, on you and me and other Americans that were working harder than ever for less and less.” —Jim Hightower, popular commentator.

2. “You don't have to be straight to be in the military, you just

have to shoot straight.” —late Governor Barry Goldwater, speaking in support of ending the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces.

3. “The women of Idaho are not getting the health coverage

they need to take care of themselves and their families because of unfair insurance practices. We need a prescrip- tion for fairness that covers all Idahoans and keeps our medicine cabinets stocked.” —Idaho Women's Network

Spin

Spin is the art of influencing the outcome of a story. It is how you nudge, cajole, massage and direct the news to your benefit. It is your angle on the story. Every side of a debate has its own spin. Media activists spin stories by working with reporters and “framing” the story to emphasize particular angles while downplaying others. Reporters like to consider themselves impervious to spin. Opponents of living wage will spin their side. Some- times, therefore, we must “counterspin” our opposition. For example, opponents of living wage ordinances often claim “disastrous” economic impact or questionable legal implications of such ordinances. Be prepared with your counterspin, even before the other side makes its arguments.

Winning Wages Media Kit

Pitch

To pitch a story means to give an idea for a news story to reporters, producers or editors—and getting them excited about covering it. Activists pitch stories by calling up reporters, meeting with them in person or sending a story idea tip sheet. You must be enthusiastic about the idea and offer real news with additional sources.

Possible living wage pitches:

• Ordinance announced at rally

• Profile on workers affected

• New report shows positive trend and economic impact of living wage

• More elected officials support living wage

• Business leaders (or clergy) support living wage

Frame

The frame of the story is its boundaries, its borders, its defining limits, its impact and its significance. It is your point of view. How you frame your news will determine not only whether a reporter covers it but also whether your position is communicated effectively. Framing determines who is in the story and who is not; who are the good guys and who are the bad guys; who gets to define the issue and who gets to respond. Framing is key. Whoever helps the reporter frame the story in a bigger, more significant way gets the most press coverage—and the best. In much of mainstream media today the story's frame is set by government, corporate and other “official” spokespeople. Getting into the frame—or changing the frame of the story altogether —is one of the greatest challenges to progressives today (see Framing the News, elsewhere in this kit).

Hook

A hook is a way to make the story more interesting to a reporter. Hooks are the components of a news story that make it irresistible to journalists: timeliness, anniversaries, controversy, localizing a national story, and dramatic human interest. Think of your news as bait that is luring the fish to bite. Put the hook out there! Hooks become part of your “frame.” They give the story more impact and prominence (see How and Why to Frame, elsewhere in this kit). You can hook your news to something else happening in the media, say a visit by a

(cont.)

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MEDIA BASICS

PART 3

Media Jargon, cont.

major politician or a business summit. Your hook could be a milestone: the anniversary of some local economic justice battle, for example. Your hook could also be the release of a new report. Hooks can be “first ever” stories. Is what you are doing “unprecedented” or “groundbreaking”? If so, that is your hook.

HOOK EXAMPLE:

Mother's Day comes around every year. Instead of the typical news story on Mother's Day—the new shopping mall is popular with moms—pitch the press an original story that hooks to the holiday. A piece on mothers who have to work three jobs just to make ends meet because they don’t earn a living wage, and how that’s affecting their families and communities.

Here is an example of a “calendar” hook:

Lead

In modern American news style, the lead is the first line or paragraph of a story; it represents the initial and central point. It is an important part of your press release in that it must capture attention and summarize the news. Try to write concise leads that will grab reporters' attention. If you do not grab them by the end of the paragraph—or sometimes by the headline—they probably won’t continue.

Op-ed (Opinion Editorial)

Often written from a personal angle, op-eds appear on the editorial page of newspapers or during the “point/ counterpoint” portion of radio and TV shows. Writers pitch their op-eds to the editorial editors. Op-eds are very useful to communicate points on an issue in your own words. They should be short, personal and clearly state the key messages. For living wage battles, or for broader economic justice efforts, consider op-eds by workers or supportive politicians and business leaders and clergy.

Photo-op (Photo Opportunity)

Use photo-ops to stage high-impact images that communicate your messages. Photographs and strong television pictures can move an audience much more directly than words. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now! (ACORN) is a master of staging photo-ops on living wage issues: pictures of workers and their supporters and families communicate what it would take thousands of words to say.

Wire Service

Wire services are news sources that file articles to newspapers and radio and TV stations across the country;

22

media outlets then “pull” the stories off the wire to print or air them locally. Every media activist—that's you—should have the number of the nearest AP bureau and other wire service offices in their rolodex. If you get a local story onto the AP wire it can be picked up in papers

nationwide. Related news sources are syndicated columnists. These journalists write features that are syndicated—dissemi- nated—to subscriber media outlets across the country. If your news has regional or national importance, syndicated columnists or news wires might be interested.

The Associated Press (AP) is probably the most popular wire service, with bureaus in most media markets. Other mainstream wire services include: Copley, Dow Jones, Knight-Ridder, Gannett, New York Times News Service, Reuters, Scripps-Howard, United Press International, and States.

Daybook

The daybook is the daily listing of events for journalists, including press conferences, rallies and other media events. It is often what reporters check first thing in the morning to see what news is being made that day. The Associated Press (AP) produces one of the most popular daybooks. To get on the AP daybook, call, fax or email your local AP bureau with a media advisory.

B-roll

These are the images shown on the screen as a television news anchor provides a voice-over of a story. B-roll is filmed throughout the day by crews, or can be taken from the station's file footage to illustrate frequently covered issues such as workers protesting poverty wages.

Actuality

An actuality is a news piece created for radio. Activists can produce their own radio actualities and send them to radio stations across the state. An actuality sounds just like it was produced by a radio reporter, containing quotes, sound effects and background noise. Relatively inexpensive to make, actualities are an important media tool that is often underused.

No comment

No comment is a dangerous thing to say to a reporter. Rarely—if ever—use this phrase with a journalist. Saying “no comment” suggests one of two things: (1) You are hiding something; (2) You are so uninformed and caught by surprise that you are incompetent.

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MEDIA BASICS

Media Jargon, cont.

If you absolutely cannot speak on an issue respond with

something such as: “Our lawyers have informed us that we cannot speak on that issue. However, what I can say is that we are here to serve the community in the most effective and committed way possible and make sure every worker here is paid a living wage.” Turn the question around so you can respond

with a key message.

On/off the record

Many people use these terms without knowing their technical implications. Contributing to the confusion is the fact that on and off the record mean different things to different reporters. Generally, you must presume that everything you say to a reporter at all times—including social and casual settings —is on the record. That means it is information that can be used with specific attribution—your name and organizational affiliation. For some journalists, off the record means the information can still be used, but without attribution. Sometimes sources

will go off the record to impart sensitive information with which they do not want to be associated. This means the person went off the record and the attribution is general—not specific by name. Going off the record first requires permission from the journalist. The journalist must agree to the terms. You must remember to go back on the record when it is appropriate. Once you say something it cannot be reversed and made off the record.

A related distinction is Deep Background. Deep Background

usually means that the information and your name cannot be used: Think “Deep Throat” and the Watergate scandal. On the whole, it is not advised to go either off the record or on deep background. If you do not want reporters to know something,

do not say it.

Embargo

You can embargo your news for a specific date and time. This means reporters cannot publish or air the news until the stated embargo time. Embargoes are a way for you to get information into the hands of key journalists prior to an event. That way they can do a good job covering your news without ruining the “big surprise.” For example, a report on the economic impact of a living wage law given to journalists in advance may be embargoed until the time and date of a press conference. The embargoed copies allow reporters to study your work and begin to prepare the story. You must write “EMBARGOED UNTIL [DATE] AND [TIME]” across all documents given to reporters in advance. Most responsible reporters do not break embargoes. Nevertheless,

they are a risk. Winning Wages Media Kit
they are a risk.
Winning Wages Media Kit

23

FRAMING THE NEWS

“Far from being an objective list of facts, a news story results from multiple subjective decisions about whether and how to present happenings to media audiences. Newsmakers engage in a selection process, actively making sense out of an immense quantity of experience, selecting some points as critical, discarding or downplaying others.“

—Charlotte Ryan, Prime Time Activism

 

Whoever frames your issue in

the broadest

way—so it affects

the most people—will, in the

competitive media market, get the

coverage and

win the campaign.

U nderstanding framing is one of the most important steps to understanding how the media can work for you—or against you. The frame of the story is its boundaries, its borders, its defining limits, its impact. The frame is your point of view. How you

frame a story is critical. Whoever helps the reporter frame the story in a more significant manner gets the most press coverage—and sometimes the best.

Who is in the story and who is not? What is the impact of the story? Who is affected? Who are the “players“ in your story? The “heroes“ and villains?“ Who gets to define proactively the issue and who gets to respond? All are framing questions that must be answered in your frame.

How Framing Works

Government officials, corporate heads, interest groups and think tanks all employ public-relations experts whose sole job is to get their point of view in the media. In other words, to help set the frame. Editors and reporters must make choices every day about what stories make the news and whose point of view

THE POWER OF FRAMING:

• How you frame your news will

determine its prominence in the media.

• How you frame your news will

determine the competitiveness of your story as compared to all the other news

happening that day.

• How you frame your news will define the debate.

• How you frame your news will define

the players: who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

• How you frame your news will persuade

people to respond in a particular way, including public officials, voters and regular community members.

• How you frame your news will inform

the public about your position and will communicate your messages.

• How you frame your news will

determine what images and metaphors communicate the story.

b
b

is going to be in the story. How you frame the story will help determine whether or not you are included in the news. Take the example of welfare. The official frame on welfare is something like this: This country was founded on individualism. Every individual—not our society —needs to pick himself up

and take care of himself. The reproduction of images of people who do drugs, refuse to work or are “welfare cheats“, all work to reaffirm the frame’s legitimacy. At the same time, the frame absolves government of the responsibility to take care

of its citizens. Or, look at living wage. We frame the issue as one of worker salaries and benefits, fighting poverty, strengthening working families and their communities, ensuring corporate responsibility and accountability, and guaranteeing broader economic justice. The opposi- tion frames it as raising taxes, losing jobs, displacing workers, creating hostile business climates, or actually harming those it intends to aid, among other arguments. It’s a battle of the frames, playing out in your local news.

(cont.)

Winning Wages Media Kit

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FRAMING & MESSAGING

PART 4

26

Framing the News, cont.

Strategizing Your Frame

To get yourself in the frame—or change the frame altogether—you have to think strategically. What is the issue? What is your objective? What is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish both politically and socially? Returning to the living wage example: Are you trying to get

a living wage law passed for in a specific amount of time or

using a specific tactic (city council vote, referendum)? Are you trying to empower low-wage workers? Are you trying to expand coverage of an existing law? Do you seek to build your base and expand your social justice movement? Define your goal and attach it to the frame. Next, think about what symbols carry the frame. In the welfare framing example, the “official“ hostile frame tried to represent the issue with an African-American mother with numerous kids. In a living wage context, the opposition will counter frame your arguments through expensive advertising and PR campaigns designed to instill fear and uncertainty in the minds of voters and elected officials by symbolizing the issue with images that strike terror (advertisements showing empty business offices forced to relocated because they couldn’t afford to pay a living wage; public services, such as library programs cut because of the economic “downturn“ caused by

a living wage). You have to counter that with whoever represents your point of view: the working

parents struggling to make it against a system of vast injustice and indifference; the children caught in the middle; the communities affected. You have to change the frame of the story by changing as many of its components as possible: the characters, the goals, the terms of debate. Often, when asked to describe how our opponents frame the issues we usually respond quickly because it is easy to see their arguments. But when asked how we frame the subject, we often go off in many different directions. We need to step back from our work and contemplate how we are framing our issues and what messages we are communicating. Recognizing the importance of framing and coordinating a strategic message across a broad range of publics is important. How does your frame touch people who may not be

directly affected?

How you frame the story will help determine whether or not you are included in the news.

affected? How you frame the story will help determine whether or not you are included in

Winning Wages Media Kit

PART 4

FRAMING & MESSAGING

CASE STUDY Rats Bite Baby: A FRAMING EXAMPLE C harlotte Ryan, noted national media critic
CASE STUDY
Rats Bite
Baby: A FRAMING EXAMPLE
C harlotte Ryan, noted national media critic and advocate, cites an example of framing in her book,
Prime Time Activism, excerpted and paraphrased here. It involves a newspaper headline and
story concerning an event, or series of events, in an inner-city area in the U.S. This example should
help you understand the whole subject of framing. The lesson of this example—that stories can
be framed depending on political positions—is transferable to living wage battles.
Picture this headline in the metro
section of a major urban daily:
Now, let’s look at another variation:
Consider this:
“Rats Bite Baby.“
“Rats Bite Infant: Landlord,
Tenants Dispute Blame“
“Rat Bites Rising in City’s
‘Zone of Death’“
The story is set in a housing project in
the Black inner-city community of a large
metropolis. It involves a single mother of
five who left her baby in the bassinet while
she went down to the corner to cash her
welfare check, most likely next to the
“Pay Day Check Cashing“ store. The door
was left open so her neighbors could hear
the children playing. While she was gone,
the baby was bitten repeatedly by rats.
A neighbor responded to the cries of the
infant and brought the child to Central
Hospital where he was treated and released
in his mother’s custody.
How is this story being framed? For
those who oppose welfare, it’s is clear.
Who are the bad guys? Not the rats. Not
the city. Not the owner of this project. It is
the mother who left her baby alone to go
and cash her welfare check. The bad guys
here are all welfare recipients and unwed
mothers—especially people of color.
The good guys are upstanding citizens
who work or get off welfare, as well as
politicians who advocate welfare reform.
The images that communicate this
frame are the photos of people hanging
around the local check cashing business,
abandoned children playing in the project,
and politicians calling for welfare reform.
Suddenly, the frame has changed
considerably. Now it is a story emphasizing
controversy and conflict: the slumlord
hounded by cameras in his wealthy
neighborhood and shielded by his lawyers
versus low-income neighborhood residents
coming together to protest terrible housing
conditions.
This version of the story includes
information from other tenants who claim
their repeated requests for rodent extermi-
nation had been ignored by the landlord.
An image that communicates this frame
is one of angry and concerned residents
of the project coming together to protest.
Though the landlord tries to blame the
tenants for improperly disposing of their
garbage, the frame has been expanded.
The facts will now be selected and
ordered differently, guided by a different
set of values and responsibilities. Still,
something is missing.
The frame has changed again. Now City
Hall is implicated and the frame opens up
to include: elected officials, urban policy,
economic empowerment zones and afford-
able housing. The whole inner-city context
is under fire.
According to this version of the story,
the woman’s baby is only the latest victim
of a “rat epidemic“ plaguing inner-city
neighborhoods in the “Zone of Death.“
The good guys and the bad guys have
changed places. The mother, vilified in
the first “Rats Bite Baby“ story, has now
become a spokesperson for families
victimized in the urban “Zone of Death.“
She becomes the emblem of the story.
The frame of the story—its focus, its
boundaries, its underlying values—has
changed. And not only that, this local story
suddenly has national consequences as
cities across the U.S. struggle with similar
inner-city challenges.
This is what you must do for your news. You can set the frame. You can create the
messages, the images and the significance of the story in a way that puts you on the offense.
You can shape public opinion by strategically framing the story and communicating messages.
This is the most empowering thing you can do as you communicate with the media.
When you go to the press with your message, you help to change the terms of
debate. Understand that you have a window of opportunity to seize; to do so, you first
need a frame. With issues like poverty, economic opportunity, living wage and community
benefits we are framing for our lives. The better we are at doing it, the more we are going
to be heard.

Winning Wages Media Kit

27

HOW & WHY TO FRAME LIVING WAGE NEWS

This article focuses on framing your living wage news to capture reporters’ attention and put the opposition on defense. It is not an in-depth political framing analysis (see the following Analysis by George Lakoff). Framing of living wage can incorporate numerous issues, including poverty, workers’ rights, economic justice, corporate responsibility, globalization and more. This framing model helps activists break down the issue into its most important and persuasive components.

 

1.

2.

 

TARGET YOUR

REPORTERS

AND FRAME THE STORY

IN A WAY THAT IS MOST

PERTINENT TO

THEM.

How you frame for your local business reporter will be different than how you frame an issue for the lifestyle or political desks. How you would frame for Oprah is different than how you would frame for The Wall Street Journal. Customize your frame

to fit the picture!

A well-framed living wage argument most

likely will appeal to the business or metro/local reporters. However, it can also

have cross-over potential with state

reporters (if other towns

in your state have

successfully passed a law), the religious beat (as faith-based groups get involved); labor/worker reporters; human-interest

reporters, City Hall beat,

and so forth.

Think like a reporter as you frame your issue. What will make this story of interest

to

her or him, and why? Why should they

cover this story when there are dozens of

others for them to cover? frame and its hooks help

How can your reporters convince

their editors to give the story bigger play?

b
b

We Frame Stories for Two Reasons:

Maximum media impact. The story framed most effectively will appeal to the

media, help reporters and editors understand the significance and scope of the issue, cut through competition for news coverage, and score headlines. By framing the issue to include drama, controversy, reach, impact, human interest, civic and economic

consequences you make the story more compelling and irresistible to the media. Aim your frame high. Frame so your news has the potential of appearing on Page 1A of your local newspaper, not buried in the back pages.

Put opposition on the defense and you on the offense. Set the terms of the

debate by framing the issue proactively. Whoever controls the frame controls the

debate. Force your opposition to play framing “catch up“ because you have articulated the issue in a way that serves your agenda.

Living wage laws have been successful because, among other reasons, we have framed them effectively to capture interest and establish broad impact by communicating galvanizing arguments such as “people who work should not live in poverty“, and “paying a living wage is ultimately good for our local economy and our families“. Meanwhile, opponents resort to a litany of myths and counter-frames, including the easily refutable lie that living wages ultimately “harm” workers.

How to Frame: A Model

Answer these specific questions to help determine your frame.

What is the issue “about?“ The issue can be “about“ almost anything you want it to be as long as The issue can be “about“ almost anything you want it to be as long as it serves your political agenda. Avoid framing the issue so narrowly that it is about something very small. For example, living wages can be framed simplistically as paying workers, say, $10.25 an hour. Or, it can be about something so much more, something that affects the entire city or county, that has dramatic and positive economic consequences, that appeals to the core values of your community, that makes this issue one of the most important ones now being debated.

Who is affected by the issue? T ry to frame the story so more people are impacted by the issue, n Try to frame the story so more people are impacted by the issue, not simply the literal number of workers covered by the law, although that is of course key. Greater impact equals greater consequences and significance, which means more public interest and press attention. How many people will be affected, including workers covered by a living wage law, their families, employers,

(cont.)

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PART 4

FRAMING & MESSAGING

How and Why to Frame Living Wage News, cont.

and so forth? How wide is the reach of the issue? How deep does the issue penetrate into your community’s core concerns? Will your news only impact 29 people in your community, or does the issue have a much broader scope and ultimately affect every person in your area? One living wage activist said, “The law itself will only affect a few

thousand employ- ees at this phase, but ultimately if it impacts every- one who cares about paying decent living

wages for those who work, who care about economic strength and community growth, who care about responsibility and accountability, who have empathy for all those who live in our city, including the most poor, who pay taxes and want to live in a community with real benefits and values, and who care in general about the social, civic and economic well-being of our area—ultimately, that just about

includes everyone!“

Frame so the opposition is on the defense and forced to coun- terframe, and you are on the offense—having claimed the political and moral high ground.

Define the issue and players in your frame. Whoever defines the debate, controls it. Move your frame, not the frame of your opponents. The frame will determine who are the “good guys“ and who are the “bad guys.“ Every drama needs a hero and villain. Frame so the opposi- tion is on the defense and forced to counterframe, and you are on the offense—having claimed the political and moral high ground. In a living wage, there are many players, including:

“Good guys:“ workers, their families, clergy, supportive elected officials, supportive business leaders, unions, employers who pay a living wage, communities outside your area that have passed living wage laws, voters on your side, and so forth. “Bad guys:“ Employers tying to deny a decent living wage, Chamber of Commerce officials not considering the well-being of the entire community, elected officials who oppose a living wage, corporations and associations (e.g., hotel owners’ associations) only concerned about their profit interests, and so forth. It might appear simplistic to reduce the battle down to good and bad guys. However, by profiling the story and framing the players you make moral and political choices —and their consequences—more clear for the media and for the different sides of the debate, and most important for those who haven’t taken a side yet but are still impressionable.

who haven’t taken a side yet but are still impressionable. Winning Wages Media Kit Create “hooks“

Winning Wages Media Kit

Create “hooks“ on which to hang your frame. Reporters are always looking for news hooks, those aspects of the story that make it Reporters are always looking for news hooks, those aspects of the story that make it more timely and compelling. The more hooks contained in your story the better the chances of it scoring headlines (See News Hooks For Your Frame for full descriptions). Some useful living wage hooks include:

controversy (point, counter-point, debate), human interest (stories of workers), “strange bedfellows“ (employers and workers unite).

Finally, to support and “transmit“ your frame, consider what images, metaphors and symbols communicate the frame. What pictures embody your values and consider what images, metaphors and symbols communicate the frame. What pictures embody your values and you frame? What media photo-ops can you construct to symbolize the frame? In the welfare example cited above, one of the most power- ful and disturbing images that communicated the side of the welfare “reformers“ were the shots of check-cashing/alcohol stores with African-American “welfare moms“ waiting in line to cash their welfare checks. In living wage campaigns stage images that signify your frame, including events that showcase the actual workers and their families, that expose the injustice of a poverty wage paid by employers who do not support the living wage law, and that indicate broad community support (clergy, business,

working families, etc.).

support (clergy, business, working families, etc.). FRAME WITH YOUR VALUES IN MIND Values-based framing is

FRAME WITH YOUR VALUES IN MIND

Values-based framing is integral to advancing a progressive social agenda. All to often we construct the issue with facts and figures and statistics at the forefront. Our arguments are reduced to pie-charts and graphs. But we can appeal to the minds and hearts of constituents by framing with values in mind. Values that uphold democratic principles and decency. Values that indicate what we believe in, what we stand for and what kind of society we want to live in. Values such as:

Empathy Personal Responsibility Justice Fairness Decency Share the fruits and benefits of our community Good business sense Work (Hard Working) Strong Faith Strong Families

Opportunity Making a better life Dignity Civic Participation Strong Communities Public Health Personal Happiness Equal opportunity Public accountability Equanimity Character and contribution

b
b

29

NEWS HOOKS FOR YOUR FRAME

Every frame needs a hook. Hooks help you catch reporters’ attention. Hooks make stories more newsworthy. They can be included in the framing of a story in a way that expands the significance of the news and makes it more compelling. When you pitch a story and frame the news for the reporter, consider including as many of these hooks as possible.

30

Is or of this hook. A If you see a national story is breaking, consider

Is

or

of

this hook.

Is or of this hook. A If you see a national story is breaking, consider calling
Is or of this hook. A If you see a national story is breaking, consider calling

A

If you see a national story is breaking, consider calling your local media and “localize” it.

Is or of this hook. A If you see a national story is breaking, consider calling
Is or of this hook. A If you see a national story is breaking, consider calling

New announcement

your news “unprecedented,” “groundbreaking,” “first-ever?” If so, say it. The

rule of the game is: Reporters are only interested in new news, not old news.

Make your news fresh. The launch of a the first living wage campaign in your area,

the first-ever public hearing on workers’ wages in your town would be examples

Trend Reporters naturally are interested in trends. Stories that suggest new opinions, behavior patterns and attitudes might get covered. Trends can be revealed in reports that detail new information. And remember: In the news business, “three is a trend.” Find at least three examples to corroborate your assertion that a new trend is emerging. If living wage laws are sweeping your state, that would be a trend.

Localize a national story.

convenient news hook is to take a nationally breaking story and emphasize its

local impact. The national press has covered living wage and probably will continue to do so. That offers you opportunities to spotlight your local measure. National news stories such as the affect of the economy on American

workers may be localized to show how workers in your area are specifically impacted. If you see a national story is break- ing, consider calling your local media and “localize” it. The other side of this framing hook is: nationalize a local story. If your local news has state, regional or national impli- cations, by all means include that in your frame. Make your town a “model” that has universal implications for other towns in your state, region or even nationally.

Dramatic human interest. Compelling personal stories almost have to be part of the frame. Flesh out the frame to include the stories of real people, their triumphs and tragedies, ordeals, adventures and anecdotes. Besides, the stories are true and represent the voices of people who are often not included. Living wage campaigns offer rich example of dramatic human interest in the stories of low-income workers affected by the law.

Controversy This sells stories, for good or for bad. Your opposition is obviously framing the story to emphasize their agenda. So you should frame the controversy to put your enemy on the defense. Living wage has inherent controversy: between the campaign vs. the opposition, between workers vs. insensitive employers.

(cont.)

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News Hooks For Your Frame, cont.

Fresh angle on an old story Similar as news being “new” (see previous example:

Similar as news being “new” ( see previous example:   If your opposition announces some new
 
 

If your opposition announces some new anti-living wage tactic, respond with your

 

message and get

into the news.

 
 

campaign support.

Respond and react Most of what we describe in this section is about proactively framing your news for maximum media impact. However, consider reacting to news made by others as an opportunity to counterframe the issue and move your messages. If your opposition

announces some new anti-living wage tactic, respond with your message and get into the news.

Celebrity Sometimes fame and fortune can

get into the news. Celebrity Sometimes fame and fortune can “New Announcement” ). If you can

“New Announcement”). If you can take an old story and

put a fresh twist on it, make that part of your frame. The age old example is: “Dog Bites Man”—a non-story. “Man Bites Dog”: now that is a

story. A living wage “second time around” campaign story that is made fresh with new details and updates would be an example of this hook.

Anniversaries One year later, one decade later, 20 years later. These “anniversary” stories are attention-grabbers. For example, one year after the passage of a living wage in a nearby location resulted in various things happening to workers. Does that story have implications for your campaign? If so, use the anniversary as a hook for your news.

If so, use the anniversary as a hook for your news. serve as a hook. If

serve as a hook. If you have a nationally or locally known luminary —cultural, religious, political or entertainment—make sure he or she is included in the story. Celebrities attract the news. The downside to celebrity is, of course, it tends to outshine the stories of real people actually affected by the issue. Plus, celebrities are often famous simply for being famous, not necessarily for their political acumen or experience.

Calendar hook Frame your story to capture something coming up on the calendar. Mother’s Day can be a hook for poor working moms who would be covered by a living wage. Labor Day can be a living wage rally and worker story opportunity. Religious holidays offer your side’s clergy opportunities for media coverage.

your side’s clergy opportunities for m edia coverage. Strange Bedfellows Un usual allies often attract media

Strange Bedfellows Unusual allies often attract media attention. Republicans and Democrats supporting living wage. Labor and business come together for living wage. Highlight “strange bed- fellows” to show the diversity and breadth of your

bed- fellows” to show the diversity and breadth of your Profiles and personnel Y our news

Profiles and personnel Your news may feature individuals, community leaders or galvanizing spokespersons who may become news them- selves because of their fascinating stories and civic standing.

because of their fascinating stories and civic standing. Special event If you are staging a sizeable

Special event If you are staging a sizeable conference, rally or gathering, frame the event to capture the issue and signify its importance.

rally or gathering, frame the event to capture the issue and signify its importance. Winning Wages

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ANALYSIS Framing can be a complex discipline requiring years of study, focus group polling, analysis,
ANALYSIS
Framing can be a complex discipline requiring years of study, focus group polling, analysis,
research and target audience testing. Professional communications analysts and practitioners
have devoted much resources and time to this study. This section of the “Winning Wages“ guidebook presents both
quick spot-framing tips (see previous article) and more in-depth framing analysis. In this piece by noted academic
researcher, progressive political thinker, author and cognitive science expert George Lakoff, we discover a more
detailed analysis of framing for living wage. The first part focuses on the basic frames of living wage for those who
want that specific focus. The second part goes beyond living wage into a “moral economy.“ George Lakoff is the author
of Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, University of Chicago Press. Article used by permission.
PART 1: New Lenses For Your Frames:
AN ANALYSIS OF THE FRAMING OF LIVING WAGE
by George Lakoff, Rockridge Institute and UC Berkeley
Framing in Everyday Life
S uppose you have a friend who doesn’t
spend his money very freely. You can
understand his behavior in at least two
very different ways. You might think of him as
“stingy.“ This contrasts with “generous.“
Either of these words raises the issue of how
willing he is to part with his money to benefit
someone else. Stingy says “not very“ and
imposes a negative judgment. But the same
behavior might also be described by someone
else as “thrifty.“ Here, the opposite is “waste-
ful,“ and the issue is how efficiently he man-
ages his money. The judgment is positive.
What we have here is a case of framing.
The same behavior can be framed positively
as “managing money efficiently,“ or negatively
as “being unwilling to help someone in need.“
Opposites like “stingy“ and “generous“ are
defined as opposing values in the same con-
ceptual frame.
A frame is a mental structure that we
normally use in thinking, usually without
being aware of it. All words are defined in
terms of frames.
Framing can be extremely important to
your life. Framing matters. Frames character-
ize the way you understand a situation and
they affect how you live.
Political Frames
On the day that George W. Bush took
office, the words “tax relief“ started appearing
in White House communiqués to the press
and in official speeches and reports by
conservatives. Let us look in detail at the
framing evoked by this term before we get
into living wage because it offers an excellent
perspective on how issues in the public
debate can be framed with political and media
consequences.
The word relief evokes a frame in which
there is a blameless afflicted
“The job of the living cage campaign is to
bring the living wage frames into American
life, and with them, the progressive moral
worldview.“
—George Lakoff
person who we identify with
and who has some affliction,
some pain or harm that is
imposed by some external
cause-of-pain. Relief is the
taking away of the pain or
harm, and it is brought about
by some reliever-of-pain.
The “Relief Frame” is an instance of a
more general “rescue“ scenario, in which
there is a hero (the reliever-of-pain), a victim
(the afflicted), a crime (the affliction),
a villain (the cause-of-affliction), and a rescue
(the pain relief). The hero is inherently
good, the villain is evil, and the victim after
the rescue owes gratitude to the hero.
The term “tax relief“ evokes all of this and
more. Taxes, in this phrase, are the affliction
(the crime). Proponents of taxes are the
causes-of affliction (the villains), the taxpay-
er is the afflicted victim, and the proponents
of “tax relief“ are the heroes who deserve the
taxpayers’ gratitude.
Every time the phrase “tax relief“ is used
and heard or read by millions of people, the
more this view of taxation as an affliction and
conservatives as heroes gets reinforced.
Recently, President Bush started using the
slogan, “Tax relief creates jobs.“ Looking at
the “Relief Frame,” we see that afflictions and
pain can be quantified, and there can be
more or less relief. By the logic of framing
(not the logic of economics!), if tax relief
creates jobs, then more tax relief creates
more jobs.
Conservatives have worked for decades
to establish the metaphors of taxation as a
(cont.)

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Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. burden, an affliction, and an unfair punishment—all
Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
burden, an affliction, and an unfair
punishment—all of which require
“relief.“ They have also, over decades,
built up the frame in which the wealthy
create jobs and giving them more wealth
creates more jobs.
be called the “Conservative Business
Frame.“ Frame elements include:
• Business owners (whose viewpoint is
taken by the opposition as paramount)
• Employees
• Products
• Customers
The Power of Framing
and Reframing
the reality you are talking about, or
create one. Finding an existing one is by
far the better choice. If it exists, people
already have it in their brains and you
just have find the language to evoke it. If
you have to create a new frame, you have
to get people to learn that frame, which
takes time and effort and may not work.
• Revenue
• Expenses
• Profit
Indeed, conservative think tanks
frame the full range of issues from their
perspective. Today conservative framings
dominate our political discourse. Even
democrats have taken to talking about
“tax relief,“ although the frame contradicts
everything they are trying to do economi-
cally. That is the power of framing.
Framing in Living Wage
Campaigns
Our side’s frame:
Inherent in the opposition’s frame are
their “truths:“
When advocates talk about a “living
wage“ they assume what I call a
“Working-for-a-Living Frame.“ The frame
has certain elements—the basic parts
of the frame:
• Owners own the business (not
workers)
• The purpose of the business is
to make maximum profit for the
owners, who deserve the profits.
An employee (whose viewpoint
we take)
• Jobs must be done to produce the
products sold by the business.
Frames are in your brain,
physically in the synapses.
Just telling people facts that
contradict the frames will
usually not have any effect.
An employer (either a person or
• Employees are paid to do the jobs.
a business)
• The less paid the employees, the
A job (e.g., waiting on tables,
higher the profits
trimming trees)
• To maximize profits, owners must
A
salary (for performing the job)
Basic needs of the employee
(that the salary is to pay for)
maximize revenues and minimize
costs
Frames are in your brain, physically
in the synapses. Just telling people facts
that contradict the frames will usually
not have any effect. The frames stay, the
facts just bounce off. Statistics and num-
bers won’t matter. Even negating a frame
just reinforces the frame. If you say, “I’m
against tax relief,“ you are still evoking
the tax relief frame, with taxation as
an affliction. You might give facts and
figures indicating that costs from federal
tax cuts will just be passed down to the
local level and to private costs, providing
no relief, but the word “relief“ still
evokes the same frame.
What you have to do is reframe.
Either find another frame that better fits
This frame also has certain internal
“truths“—that is, what is taken to be
true of a situation when this frame is
used. These include:
• That’s the American way of doing
business, and we should not
interfere with it (with living wage
laws and other measures)
A note about their “Conservative
• The employee does the job.
Business Frame”: I use the term
• The employer pays the salary to the
employee for doing the job.
“conservative“ to contrast it with a
socially-responsible business frame,
• The employee deserves the salary.
or what might be called the “Family-
• The salary is sufficient for the
employee’s basic needs.
Their side’s frame:
Meanwhile, business interests that
oppose a living wage frame the issue
conceptually very differently, with
contrasting elements. Their frame could
Business Frame.” A word of caution
should be used at this point. Real
conceptual frames that people use are
far more complex than those we are
discussing here. I discuss the simple
business frame for two reasons:
(1) most people have it and understand
it, and (2) it is commonly used in
(cont.)

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Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. arguments against living wage legislation. Unfortunately, in
Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
arguments against living wage legislation.
Unfortunately, in many areas of our
society influenced by a conservative-
controlled Congress, Right Wing dominated
state legislators, and big business—not to
mention many of those who are just
wealthy—the “Conservative Business
Frame” is the dominant frame that rings
true. Such “truths“ may not actually
be true at all, or maybe rarely. What is
important is that when the frame is used
to structure a situation and then commu-
nicated to the public through the media, it
is assumed to be true—unless explicitly
contradicted. And even then they may
reappear as assumed truths.
• Customers seek to minimize prices
for commodities bought
human being is hidden by the metaphor.
Human values and human relationships
• The Market is part of nature; its
operation is inescapable.
are hidden. Individual qualities are
hidden—one worker is as good as another
• If left alone, it works best and
maximizes profit for everyone in
the Market.
who fulfills the same function.
And of course, the very question of a
living wage is outside the metaphor, as if it
• Prices are determined by a law of
Nature—the Law of Supply and
Demand.
didn’t exist. Resources don’t have families,
needs, health problems, and so on. A “fair
wage“ becomes a “fair price“ determined
• Supply increases tend to make
prices drop.
by the “labor market.“
The concept of skill is important in this
• Demand increases tend to make
them rise.
metaphor. Skill is seen as a measure of
value, with highly skilled labor worth
• The operation of the Market is fair,
since nature is unbiased.
more and unskilled labor worth the least.
This idea, as it works in the frame, is also
Living Wage Campaigns
and The Market
• Prices determined by the Market are
fair prices.
insidious. In the metaphor, “high skill“
is assumed to be in short supply and
• For optimal results, the Market should
be left alone.
needed. But this defines skill in terms of
the Law of Supply and Demand. A teacher
The “Conservative Business Frame”
does not stand alone. It is supported by
the idea of the market, as economists
often understand it and teach about it.
The idea of the market is the basis of the
entire American economy. It is framed in
a way that distorts radically how it really
operates, and that frame stands in the way
of living wage campaigns. Here’s what that
frame looks like:
• Externally imposed constraints on
prices are not optimal and mess
things up for everybody.
This frame is, course a myth, but
living wage advocates encounter it every-
where. You need to recognize it, know its
problems, and know how to reframe.
One of the most insidious aspects of
the “Natural Market Frame” is its use as
metaphor for the basis of
may be highly skilled, but those skills will
have low value if teachers are in great
supply, or if there no way to profit from
those skills.
There is one more important issue
here: Who sells labor to the employer?
There are two answers. The worker either
sells his own labor, or a union sells it for
him, as an agent. If the worker sells his
own labor, he is usually put at big disad-
The “Natural Market Frame”
Entities:
labor and wages. Note that
neither labor nor wages are
in the “Market Frame”
• Businesses
itself. Labor and wages are
• Commodities
brought into the frame via
• Customers
metaphor that labor is a
• Prices
Resource (a kind of com-
What is important is that when the frame
is used to structure a situation and then
communicated to the public through the
media, it is assumed to be true—unless
explicitly contradicted.
modity), where wages are
Internal ‘truths’:
• Commodities are relatively scarce;
they are not freely available.
prices for labor, and
employers are customers.
• Businesses sell commodities to cus-
tomers at prices
This is an extremely insidious
metaphor—and it is everywhere. The
• Businesses seek to maximize prices
for commodities sold
name “Human Resources“ assumes the
metaphor. When labor is made a
“resource,“ the fact that the resource is a
vantage by the Law of Supply and Demand.
Since he controls only a supply of one,
he can’t drive up the price. The individual
is at another disadvantage as well—
coercion, that is, sexual harassment, bad
(cont.)

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Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. working conditions, demeaning treat- ment, predatory lending,
Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
working conditions, demeaning treat-
ment, predatory lending, and so on.
Unions control a greater labor supply,
and so can “drive up” the price and
defend workers against coercion.
We can see why conservatives hate
unions. They see them as interfering in
the “natural” labor market. And worse,
they see them as immoral—giving
workers things they haven’t earned and
undermining discipline.
Yet the frames have ossified in the brains
of much of the population and are being
taught to a new generation.
These frames do not accurately
portray our reality. That does not make
them less real, as frames.
(cont.)
We can see why conservatives hate
unions. They see them as interfering
in the “natural” labor market.
This puts unions in a difficult posi-
tion. With their workers they use the
Working-For-A-Living metaphor, which is
their whole reason for being. But with
employers, they use the employers’
metaphor—the Labor Market metaphor.
These are conflicting frames, and that
makes for a hard balancing act.
The “Conservative Moral“
Frame
Conservatives have a very different
view of morality than progressives do.
At the center of conservative morality is
the idea of discipline.
The “Moral Discipline Frame“
People naturally tend to follow their
desires rather than to do always what it
is right. If people are to do right, they
have to learn “discipline.“ People who
are not disciplined will not act morally.
Scarcity and difficulty in the world
imposes a form of discipline. Market-
based competition and unfettered free
enterprise thus contribute to morality by
imposing discipline. If people did not
have to compete—if they were just
given what they need, there would be no
reason to be disciplined, and so no one
would follow moral rules. People would
just do what “feels right.“
Getting payments not earned
(“according to need, not worth“) pro-
motes immorality and is itself immoral.
Moreover, it upsets the market and leads
away from the maximization of the inter-
ests of all, thus hurting people in general.
An important consequence of the
“Moral Discipline Frame” is that there
will always be winners and losers. The
more disciplined people will win and
they will deserve it. The losers will serve
the winners. Those who accept the frame
assume this is as it should be. Otherwise,
there would be no need for discipline
and all morality would break down.
A saying like, “The poor will always be
with us,“ expresses this clearly. Notice
that the “us“ in this saying does not
include the poor.
The economic application of this
moral frame derives from the specter of
scarcity: If resources are scarce, then
people who don’t work to produce them
don’t deserve a share. They just take
from those who are productive, creating
the threat that there may not be enough
for those who are productive. In a
society like the US, where there is such
abundance, there is no real specter of
scarcity; there is only the lack of money
to buy on the part of many people.
Yet the frames have ossified
in the brains of much of the
population and are being
taught to a new generation

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Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. Let’s start with the other side’s own
Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
Let’s start with the other side’s own words, “What is the Living Wage,“ excerpted below.
The website of the conservative think tank, The Employment Policies Institute (EPI),
www.epionline.org, provides the following characterization of the living wage. By the way,
note how this website also demonizes ACORN and others working for a living wage (“The real
ACORN: Anti-employee, anti-union, big business.“)
• Boston $19.27
• Santa Cruz $16.93
Real Arguments:
• New York $16.81
The Opposition’s Frames
and Words
• Washington $15.46
• Newark $14.58
• Chicago $14.37
These dominant conservative frames
illustrate what the living wage activist is
up against. Let us look at how these
frames create a “logic“—a mode of
reasoning that living wage advocates
constantly encounter.
What is the Living Wage?
Since the mid-1990’s, the American Left
has been assembling a “new Economic and
Social Justice movement“ that works to
implement so-called “living wage“ ordinances
in cities throughout the United States.
What is the living wage campaign? It is an
organized effort to force employers to inject
a welfare mentality into the workplace. The
goal: to set pay wage rates “to each according
to their need“ rather than their skills. This
means doubling, tripling, and even quadru-
pling the current minimum wage—at a huge
cost to consumers and taxpayers.
In this debate, “need“ is defined not by
independent experts but by the living wage
movement itself. Far from subsistence wages,
various living wage proponents have
endorsed mandatory wages as high as
$48,000 per year, mandatory vacation of
“four to five weeks per year,“ health care
coverage for all employees, and more.
The living wage movement did not start
out with such large demands. The first
successful campaign for a living wage, in
Baltimore in 1994, sought a living wage of
$6.10 an hour, rising to $7.90 within five
years and thereafter adjusted to inflation.
This ordinance applied only to companies
that provided contracted services for a city or
county (such as landscaping public grounds,
providing “meals on wheels“ to senior citi-
zens or busing children to public schools).
Contrast that with a living wage ordinance
pushed through in Santa Monica, California,
in 1999. That ordinance required a $10.69
an hour minimum wage for all businesses
with fifty or more employees in the city’s
“coastal zone“ business district, plus twenty-
four paid vacation days each year.
Even that is not the limit. Help The
Homeless, a pro-living wage organization,
has suggested the following hourly minimum
wages for select U.S. cities:
• Boulder $13.62
As the living wage movement grew
throughout the 1990’s, proponents sought
coverage of living wage laws to include
companies that had received tax abatements,
or incentive grants or that lease property
from a city or county. Many businesses,
whose “customer“ was the general public
—and not the city or county government—
were now required to pay living wage rates to
their employees, yet they were unable to pass
along the cost of the mandated increase to
the government body that mandated them
As the scope of the living wage coverage
widened, the proposed living wage rates
skyrocketed to $11, $12, even $15 an hour,
plus full benefits packages for what were
heretofore entry-level jobs. One group
recommended a $48,000 living wage for a
single parent with two children living in
Washington, D.C. That works out to $24 an
hour—if the parent works full-time.
That’s more than four times the current
minimum wage, and that money has to come
from somewhere. It will come from employers
and their customers, or from government
and taxpayers. In both cases, that means it
will come from you. Or, the costs will be
shouldered by employees who lose their jobs,
or applicants who cannot get hired.
The living wage movement is now expanding
its reach with, in the words of advocate
Robert Pollin, “a more ambitious aim: to
create a living wage policy with…a national
scope.“
(cont.)

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Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. After reading the opposition’s argu- ment, it
Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
After reading the opposition’s argu-
ment, it should be clear they see the world
through different frames than we do. Since
we need to understand them in order to
counter them, let’s take a closer look at
how their frames structure their argu-
ments.
Let us begin with the term “welfare
mentality.“ For conservatives, a “welfare
mentality“ violates the “Moral Discipline
Frame.” It assumes the idea behind the
welfare state: Every human being inherent-
ly deserves to have basic needs met
(regardless of whether they are earned
through “the discipline of the market“).
The term “mentality“ is condescending.
using that phrase, the authors
are suggesting indirectly that the
living wage campaign is a form
of communism. They refer else-
where to living wage advocates
as “Marxoids.“
The idea here is that the very
concept of a living wage violates
the idea of the labor market,
which is taken to be literal, not
metaphorically constructed. The
After reading the opposition’s argu-
ment, it should be clear they see the
world through different frames than
we do. Since we need to understand
them in order to counter them, let’s
take a closer look at how their frames
structure their arguments.
labor market is assumed to be a
special case of the market in general,
which is taken as defining capitalism—
assumed to be in contrast with socialism.
It is seen therefore as a threat to very idea
The idea here is that the very
concept of a living wage violates
the idea of the labor market,
which is taken to be literal, not
metaphorically constructed.
of the American economy and conservative
morality. It is not just anti-business, it is
communist, un-American and immoral.
The conservative “Pay-According-To-
Skill Frame“ assumes that the pay-skill
hierarchy is a “natural“ constraint govern-
ing the labor market. The implication is
that, without it, the market would not
function correctly to maximize the profits
of all—and that therefore everyone would
be hurt financially.
What is interesting here is “at a
huge cost to consumers and taxpayers.“
This reasoning follows from using the
“Conservative Business Frame” and not
using the frames employed by the living
wage campaign.
Note what is not mentioned in these
passages:
• Community payments to corporations
(in the form of tax breaks, development
subsidies, zoning changes, local educa-
tion, local infrastructure, and so on).
These payments are made invisible by
accounting methods.
It uses a frame in which some people have
intellects superior to others, and in which
those with inferior intellects have modes
of thought that are wrong—false or
immoral, or both. The word “mentality“
refers to such modes of thought.
• Lowered community service expens-
“This means doubling, tripling, and
even quadrupling the current minimum
wage—at a huge cost to consumers
and taxpayers.“
es (emergency health care, food pro-
grams, housing programs, and so on).
These too are invisible, since they are
saved, not paid.
• Increased profits due to improved
Of course, “doubling, tripling, and
corporate efficiency and lowered expenses
even quadrupling“ is an exaggeration,
Other Uses of Conservative
Frames
a rhetorical trick.
for recruitment and training. These too
do not appear overtly in budgets as living
wage effects.
The entire argument is an elaboration
of the conservative frames adopted above.
Let’s take apart their words.
• The moral structuring of the economy.
“The goal: to set pay wage rates ‘to
each according to their need’ rather
than their skills.“
“…that money has to come from
somewhere. It will come from employers
and their customers, or from govern-
ment and taxpayers. In both cases, that
means it will come from you. Or, the
costs will be shouldered by employees
who lose their jobs, or applicants who
cannot get hired.“
Economies are claimed to be “amoral,“
despite all sorts of moral structuring
(e.g., no child labor, no assassinations of
competitors). Entrepreneurs are expected
to work within moral limits.
The phrase “to each according to his
needs“ is part of a Marxist slogan. By
(cont.)

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Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. • Lowered but still reasonable profits (return
Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
• Lowered but still reasonable profits
(return to stockholders, stock price,
bonuses to management, etc.). Profit
relative to previous wages is taken as
fixed, as if by a law of nature. Profits
with a living wage are always considered
relative to profits without a living wage
taken as a norm. Non-living-wage profits
are held fixed and other alternatives not
considered: raising prices, firing employ-
ees, asking for more tax breaks, and so on.
the general public— and NOT the city
or county government—were now
required to pay living wage rates to
their employees, yet they were unable
to pass along the cost of the mandated
increase to the government body that
mandated them.
one to earn a living wage.
Living wage campaigns not only have
to counter-frame the opposition, but have
to confront this fallacy: that the ideal has
not been achieved—it’s not even close,
but most people don’t know that.
The assumption again is that living
wages are externally imposed additional
“costs“ that should be passed on. Profits
without a living wage are considered not
only as a financial base line, but as a
moral base line.
The Progressive Moral Worldview
Living wage campaigns exist within a
moral perspective that is fundamentally at
odds with the conservative moral world-
view. They assume a progressive moral
worldview that centers on:
In other words, many
Americans commonly
assume that, in this land of
opportunity, a job will pay
enough to live on.
• Empathy (caring about, identifying
with, and connecting with others)
The Living Wage Frames
The Ideal versus the Norm
The “Working-for-a-Living Frame,”
mentioned earlier as our side’s frame,
has an interesting mental status. For most
Americans, it characterizes an ideal:
• Responsibility (actually carrying out
what empathy requires—that includes
taking care of yourself so you can
carry out your responsibility to others)
We will discuss these in detail below.
I mention them here because they cannot
be considered—or even perceived—
because they stand outside of the conser-
vative frames. The conservative frames
hide everything the living wage advocates
are talking about.
Consider the response, “Times are
tough. There isn’t enough money to pay
for a living wage!“ The lack of money
depends on how you keep the books,
and the conservative frames dictate only
one way of keeping the books.
Finally, a last argument is worth
considering:
working a job should pay enough to meet
basic needs. It also has the mental status
of a norm. In other words, many
Americans commonly assume that, in this
land of opportunity, a job will pay enough
to live on. That is, the frame is both taken
as ideal and normal. The ideal status of
this frame is an advantage
From this moral center, a great deal
more follows: fairness, protection of those
who need it, cooperation, honesty and
trust, open two-way communication,
competence, education, fulfillment in life,
and the development of communities that
live by these values.
It is from this moral perspective that
to the living wage move-
ment. The norm status of
this frame contradicts the
living wage campaign as
many people assume that
jobs already pay a living
wage.
Unless our moral worldview and those
frames become dominant in the
American cognitive landscape, there will
be little hope for economic justice in
general and living wages in particular.
“As the living wage movement grew
throughout the 1990’s, proponents
sought coverage of living wage laws to
include companies that had received tax
abatements, or incentive grants or that
lease property from a city or county.
Many businesses, whose “customer“ was
That is why books like
Barbara Ehrenreich’s
Nickled and Dimed,
which exposes the reality of working
Americans trying to get through, have been
so shocking to so many people. It is why
most Americans believed that simply going
from welfare to work would allow some-
the “Working-for-a-Living Frame” makes
sense as an ideal. The fact that most
Americans accept it as an ideal is
testimony to the fact that most
(cont.)

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Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. One reason that living wage campaigns are
Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
One reason that living wage campaigns
are difficult is that these frames are
mostly novel and have to be introduced
and repeated over and over, while there
corporate interests. Slavery
is excluded from the labor
market as is child labor.
These are all externally-
imposed constraints, and
they exist in all markets.
namely, that businesses do better as their
communities do better and that communi-
ties do better when businesses do better,
and both do better with a living wage
ordinance in place.
is no ready-made language for them.
The “Business Benefit Frame“
If a business pays living wages, then:
• Morale will rise
• Turnover will fall
Americans accept the moral world-
view that underlies it.
But people are not necessarily logical.
Many Americans accept both the
“Working-for-a-Living Frame” and the
conservative frames, even though they
may contradict each other.
The job of the living cage campaign
is to bring the living wage frames into
American life, and with them, the progres-
sive moral worldview. Unless that moral
worldview and those frames become
dominant in the American cognitive
landscape, there will be little hope for
economic justice in general and living
wages in particular.
This realistic view of
markets is entirely at
odds with the view that the
market is a force of nature,
entirely free, amoral, and optimal.
Once one sees that markets are
constructed in this way, the question arises:
• Recruitment and training costs
will fall
• Efficiency will rise
How can the market best serve the public
interest and progressive moral values?
The living wage movement is providing
some answers to this question.
Living wage advocates are not just
pointing out the benefits of the living
wage to communities; they are creating
a new frame.
This frame focuses on things that are
left out of the conservative frames: Morale,
turnover, recruiting, and efficiency. It is
based on studies by distinguished econo-
mists Janet Yellen and George Akerlof.
The “Community Benefit Frame“
The more businesses pay living wages,
then the more:
The “Payment to Corporations
Frame“
Tax breaks and subsidies from cities to
corporations are wealth redistributions;
taxpayers’ taxes are going from cities to
corporations.
• The cost of community services will
go down
Zoning changes for corporations are
wealth redistributions from taxpayers to
More Living Wage Frames
• The economy will improve (more
money spent)
The genius of the living wage campaign
has been to provide specific framings that
highlight oft-hidden economic realities
and fit progressive morality. Some of these
are implicit, some explicit. We have
already seen the “Working-for-a-Living
Frame.” Here are the others.
corporations; the reason is that zoning
changes lower property values for tax-
• The self-respect of low-income
residents will rise
payers and raise property values for
corporations.
• The general quality of life in the
community will rise (less crime,
drugs, homelessness)
If corporations are receiving payments
for communities, it seems reasonable
for the communities to get something in
• The moral level and reputation of the
community will rise
return. What, exactly, makes this seem
“reasonable?“
The “Constructed Market Frame“
Markets are constructed to fit practical
considerations, moral principles, and
specific interests.
For example, the Securities and
Exchange Commission structures the stock
market. The World Trade Organization
(WTO) has almost 1,000 pages of
regulations, mostly favoring international
• Property care and property values
will rise
There are actually two different
versions, one involving fairness, and
• Businesses will do better.
one involves a social contract.
This frame takes the focus away from
business alone and puts it on the commu-
nity as a whole and the people who live
there. From this perspective, certain
otherwise hidden things can be seen,
The “Fiscal Fairness Frame“
It is only fair to balance part of the flow
of wealth from taxpayers to corporations
with a flow of wealth and well-being
(health, safety, etc.) to the community.
(cont.)

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Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. It’s a bargain for the corporations; they
Part 1: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
It’s a bargain for the corporations; they
spend only one to four percent of revenues
on living wages, while they get much more
than that in wealth redistribution from the
tax payers and future profits.
The “Social Contract Frame“
We allow corporations certain privileges,
protections, and even payments and we
expect certain ethical behavior in return:
Increasing profits by driving wages
below the poverty line should be
outlawed on moral grounds—
impoverishing people should not
be permitted.
paying taxes, honest accounting, environ-
mental responsibility, and paying employ-
ees a living wage.
One reason that living wage campaigns
are challenging is that these frames are
mostly novel and have to be introduced
and repeated over and over, while there is
no ready-made language for them. On the
other hand, opponents can use common-
place, everyday, familiar frames with familiar
language and patterns of reasoning.
We can now see the basic argument for
living wage ordinances, given these frames.
The Basic Argument
for Living Wages
Everybody who works for a living
deserves a living wage. No one who works
full-time job should be mired below the
poverty line and be unable to support a
family. It is simply immoral (“Working-for-
a-Living Frame”).
Markets are structured morally.
Child labor is not permitted, because it
is immoral exploitation. Slavery is not per-
mitted. Nor are whippings and beatings of
employees. So increasing profits by driving
wages below the poverty line should be
outlawed on moral grounds—impoverish-
ing people should not be permitted.
Moreover, markets are structured to
serve special interests. Oil and coal subsi-
dies are examples of how special interests
structure markets. Such “subsidies“ are
huge payments from taxpayers to such
companies. The effect is to keep oil and
coal low in price, thus allowing more to
be sold with the result that the country
has become more dependent on oil and
coal. This serves the interests of those
companies, since it structures the market
in their favor.
We believe that markets should be
structured to serve the public interest
(“Constructed Markets Frame“).
Local communities make payments out
of taxpayers’ money to businesses in many
forms: tax breaks, development subsidies,
zoning changes that raise the value of
businesses, local education and infra-
structure development that contribute to
business profitability, and most obviously,
contracts (“Payment-to-Corporations
Frame“). It is only fair that businesses
return some of these payments in the form
of living wages to employees (“Fiscal
Fairness Frame“). They have that responsi-
bility (“Social Contract Frame“).
Living wages benefit communities in
many ways. First, they lower the cost of
community services to the indigent by
allowing those working to move out of
poverty. Those costly services include
emergency medical care, food programs,
housing programs, drug and alcohol
programs, and so on. Living wages make
communities better places to live—less
poverty, less crime, less homelessness,
less addiction and more self-respect, more
community pride, and better-kept
communities. When communities
are better places to live, more
people want to live there and more
businesses want to locate there.
Living wages are infectious in their
benefits to communities
(“Community Benefit Frame“).
Living wages also benefit busi-
nesses. As economists Janet Yellen
(a former presidential advisor) and George
Akerlof (a Nobel Prize winner) have found,
businesses benefit from living wages in the
following ways: they increase morale, they
increase productivity (workers who are
better off and are not quitting and moving
around as much work better), and because
such workers tend to stay on the job,
businesses save on recruitment and training
costs (“Business Benefit Frame“).
In some cases, businesses may face
the possibility of lower profits. Well-run
businesses can cope with the moral limits
set on markets. Effective entrepreneurs
have coped without slavery, child labor, and
the beating of workers. If they are competent,
they can cope without below-poverty-level
wages. (“Constructed Market Frame”)
But they shouldn’t have to. The cost to
business of paying living wages has been
found to be extremely low. Between pay-
ments by the community and the benefits
of increased productivity and lowered
costs, living wage costs should be easily
absorbed when accounting practices make
the trade-offs clear. Businesses can both
do good and do well.
That is how the living wage frames are
put into practice.

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ANALYSIS The previous section of this essay focused on the basic framing arguments of living
ANALYSIS
The previous section of this essay focused
on the basic framing arguments of living
wage, both from the opposition and from our side. This part
suggests framing living wage beyond its basic premise into a
more progressive worldview of a moral economy.
PART 2: Beyond Living Wage Campaigns
A MORAL ECONOMY
by George Lakoff, Rockridge Institute and UC Berkeley
C onservatives are right to be afraid of living wage campaigns. They are just one step to a
moral economy. Living wage advocates sometimes get a bit dejected with the thought that
they’re doing all that work for such a small portion of the population. But the results of
their efforts go far beyond the often modest wage increases they win for others.
Living wage campaigns are changing the
framing of the economic system.
Each of the frames introduced by our side
make the conservative frames weaker and
move us in the right direction. I want to
mention two new frames beyond the living
wage that I think we will need to create a
moral economy.
The Two-Tier Economy
care for children and the elderly, clean
houses, cook, waitress, garden, bag groceries,
work at check out stands, mop floors and
clean up in office buildings, work as security
guards and hospital orderlies, and so on.
Without them, this society and this economy
cannot function. These Atlases support the
life styles of the top three-quarters of the
population and yet are financially enslaved.
They are paid far less than their labor is
worth to the economy. They deserve to be
paid on the basis of their contribution to
the economy.”
cal from a traditional economics perspective.
That sentence can only make sense if one
rejects the Exchange Metaphor for Value and
adopts another metaphor.
Our two-tier economy calls for a very
different metaphor for the value of labor, a
“Contribution Metaphor for Value”: the value
of labor is what it contributes to the economy
as a whole. Given the “Contribution Metaphor
for Value,” what you contribute is what you
Living wage campaigns are
changing the framing of the
economic system.
In Greek mythology, Altas was the Titan
whose job was to hold up the heavens to keep
them from falling. He wound up stuck in this
job, unable to move lest the heavens fall.
The Modern Atlas Frame
“The U.S. has a two-tier economy, with
about a quarter of the population in the
lower tier. Those in the lower tier mostly
work—often multiple jobs—but tend not to
have health insurance or adequate housing,
nutrition, education, child care, transporta-
tion, and so on. The jobs they do are
absolutely necessary to our economy. For
low wages they pick fruits and vegetables,
That last sentence—“They are paid less
than their labor is worth to the economy“
—makes no sense from a commonplace
economic perspective. It violates a fundamen-
tal property of markets, namely, the “Exchange
Metaphor for Value,” that the value of some-
thing is what buyers in a free market pay
for it—and that includes labor. From this
perspective your labor is worth exactly what
you are paid for it, no more, no less. Since
the economy as a whole is not an employer
(a buyer of labor), that sentence is nonsensi-
earn through your work. But you may be paid
much less than you earn, that is, less than your
labor contributes to the economy. This is unfair.
The living wage campaign and the Earned
Income Tax Credit (EITC) are two ways to
begin addressing this unfairness—at least
minimally—by bringing what is paid a bit
closer to what is earned, at least close enough
to get working people out of abject poverty.
These two approaches share important
common elements. Both have a moral compo-
nent in that they make use of the “Working-for-
(cont.)

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Part 2: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont. a-Living Frame,” and the fact that it
Part 2: New Lenses For Your Frames, cont.
a-Living Frame,” and the fact that it is seen
as a moral ideal. Both focus on hidden
aspects of the economy. Living wage points
to community payments to corporations
and asks for equity in the form of wages
above the poverty level, which provide
community benefits. The money ultimately
comes from taxpayers, though it is the
form of salaries and is seen as earned,
since, according to the “Exchange
Metaphor for Value,” what is earned is
what is paid by one’s employer.