IVN News

In Defense of Mike Rowe: Stop Saying He Represents Wal-Mart

Paid Advertisement

By now, many people have seen this Wal-Mart commercial narrated by “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe. The backlash on Rowe has been huge on social media and he has since been making the media rounds to defend the ad — not Wal-Mart, but the ad.

If television viewers tuned in to CNN on Thursday, February 20, besides not getting much in terms of actual news, they may have noticed a Piers Morgan promo which aired almost every commercial break about the interview Morgan will have with Rowe. The promo’s narrator says Morgan will ask Rowe how he can still stand up for the little guy when he represents one of America’s largest corporations.

First, Mike Rowe does not represent Wal-Mart. He does not work for the company’s PR department, or legal department, or any department for that matter. It is intentionally misleading to say Rowe represents Wal-Mart when all he did was narrate a 60-second television spot. We would not say Stephen Colbert represents Wonderful Pistachios or Laurence Fishburne represents Kia or any celebrity who does a commercial represents the product being advertised. If a Kia-manufactured car got recalled, no one at CNN would call Fisburne for comment (I say that, but I could be wrong), so why ask Rowe to defend Wal-Mart?

Second, the commercial is about an effort to build the manufacturing labor force in the United States. These blue-collar jobs would be filled by what many would refer to as the “little guy.” Not only that, but Wal-Mart offers millions of job opportunities which require minimal skills and no college degree, thus helping out the little guy in a slow-to-recover economy. While many disagree with some of the company’s policies, Rowe is not the company’s spokesperson and he is not paid to represent it.

“Wal-Mart’s initiative on American manufacturing and my foundation’s focus share a lot of real estate,” Rowe said on CNN’s New Day. “In 2008, I started a foundation that basically said, ‘Work is a beautiful thing.’ Now, there’s a campaign by the largest retailer on the planet saying, ‘work is a beautiful thing.'”

The foundation Rowe is talking about, the MikeRoweWORKS Foundation, launched on Labor Day 2008 and is “concerned with promoting hard work and supporting the skilled trades in a variety of areas.” The foundation encourages young people to pursue an education at a trade school or apprenticeship program to learn a specific skill set, especially if these students are not going to pursue higher education at a 4-year university or college.

There is a simple, yet sometimes hard truth to swallow: not every kid is going to go to college or will not stay in college because it just doesn’t suit them or they do not have the financial means to pursue a 4-year degree. The U.S. has pushed programs like No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top without thinking that these programs, especially No Child Left Behind, may preclude some students from getting ahead because they are not encouraged to take the route that is right for them.

Rowe understands this and he understands that affording college does not only mean paying for tuition and classes while a student is in college, but also the enormous debt they will have to pay once they get out of college. Right now, while the labor market is not very friendly to many people, it is especially not a place for recent graduates.

There are millions of jobs out there that do not require a college degree, but they do require a specific type of skill so there is a need for vocational schools and training programs to get Americans back to work. One of the biggest problems, as Mike Rowe noted in his interview with New Day, is the cultural mindset is that if a person does not pursue and obtain a 4-year degree, that person will be a failure and that simply is not true.

Creating jobs in America, especially manufacturing jobs that help the “little guy,” is not a partisan issue. It is something most people want. So, why is the focus being put on Mike Rowe and not his message? His interviews have been some of the best I have seen on CNN because he speaks so well on the need to close the skills gap in the United States, and yet the media continues to focus on the social media backlash on Rowe for doing the Wal-Mart spot.

Photo Credit: Mike Rowe / Facebook

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


Learn More About IVN

117 comments
DarlaMcGinnis
DarlaMcGinnis

It's really simple Mike Rowe. If you do not want people to think you represent Walmart...DO NOT DO COMMERCIALS FOR THEM!!! Your voice is one that is not mistaken. And you put your own self in this position to be associated with representation of Walmart when you opened your mouth. I'm not bashing you. Actually quite fond of you but common sense dictates this. Yeah I get it...money. But seriously don't you have enough? Especially when it comes to endorsing a company KNOWN for selling products that have harmed children, pets, just life in general?

roger ganas
roger ganas

It's a "global" everything. Cheap labor overseas cuts mfging costs. Cutting costs= bigger profits. Companies that do this, tend to beat out the competition. It's not rocket science..nor is it easy to do anything about, assuming we even should. Frankly, I'm ignoring all that. On a gut level, I sense what Mike promotes is right for the times. Down the road, we'll have to see if Walmart is shafting us (& playing Mike), but for now I like where Mike's taking the discussion and most importantly.. actually doing something real to help people out of work & scrambling as well as students still in school & unsure of the future. He's giving us & them a direction for the times.  Keep it up, Mike. Good job. And thank you.

BettyBryant
BettyBryant

Mike Rowe was doing a job for which he was paid.  Good for him.  You people that want to chastise him for this are totally wrong.  Do you hold it against an actor in a film that portrays a terrorist and kills people?  Do you think because he portrays a terrorist that he is one?  I doubt that you do.  You just want to jump on the liberal union bandwagon and blame Mike Rowe for reading a script and accuse him of supporting Walmart as a company.  Walmart is doing a good thing here and regardless of whatever other things they might not do right, this effort should be applauded and encouraged.  If other major retailers would do the same thing, we might make some headway on reinvigorating manufacturing in this country.

Euroranger
Euroranger

Typical "blame the messenger" mentality I see here in many of these comments. 

Consider this: Walmart's history IS replete with examples of pressuring American companies to continually lower their prices and that if they fail to lower them to where Walmart wants, Walmart will simply buy the goods from a Chinese competitor who, more often than not, ignores environmental regulations, quality control measure and who possibly is infringing on a patent or copyright held by, in many cases, an American company.  That's not "what if", those are documented facts of the way Walmart at least used to business (they may still do so today).

That said, suppose they realized the error of their ways (at least partially) and said "maybe we need to do something to sort of start to set this right".  Because Walmart doesn't and won't disclose their motivation for this initiative, the motivation is immaterial and irrelevant.  They are donating an average of $25B per year for the next decade to help create new manufacturing jobs in this country.  This is a private company doing this.  They have no obligation.  They're not the government (because this kind of thing is typically a government incentive program).  In short: they don't HAVE to do this.  But they are.  This too is a fact...so how they arrived here and their track record coming to it, while of interest, isn't the story.


So, to publicize this effort, Walmart seeks out a spokesman whose efforts and demonstrated commitment are closely aligned with an effort to reinvigorate American labor prospects.  And there is no single better spokesman for that than Mike Rowe.  So they ask Mike, tell him what they're doing, explain their commitment and then ask if he would lend his voice to an emotional television spot to introduce their new initiative.


That.  Is.  All.


Yell, scream, jump up and down but the situation still stands: Walmart, for whatever reason, has pledged to donate $250B over the next 10 years to help revive American labor opportunities and Mike Rowe, who is certainly better positioned than anyone here on this board to spread the word about it, has determined that it is an effort he can get behind and help promote.

That any of you have an issue with it in greater consideration than the benefits of that effort are simply pathetic and shortsighted.

Union Larry
Union Larry

Shawn, thanks for writing this piece. It's thoughtful. I'm one of the three percent who are dissenting, so I know when I'm outnumbered and outgunned! I like Mike Rowe and I appreciate his concern for workers and the need for relevant job training that matches up with opportunities. But I put myself in the 3% because when you accept money from a company/sponsor, you are representing their viewpoint and their policies. Is Mike responsible for what I perceive as Wal-Mart's harmful big box ways? Absolutely not. But if you take Wal-Mart's money, you are taking their side on the issue. Same goes for Laurence Fishburne and Kia, or Samuel L. Jackson with Apple, rock groups that allow corporation to use their music on TV spots, etc. Should investigations reveal bad labor or environmental practices, or theft of public tax dollars, the people who get money from the sponsors bear some accountability. But thanks for writing the piece and making me think about things.

EdMorgano
EdMorgano

@voter suppression  @Union Larry  I don't think Union Larry is bothered by "free" speech.  Mike isn't talking for "free".  He is endorsing a company and getting "paid" to do so.  That isn't free speech.

Jeff Bayles
Jeff Bayles

I think some of you need to watch the ad. It is about Walmart donating $275 billion for manufacturing in this country. I don't believe the kids have the same heart as Sam had, but they see the need and are making an effort.

RogerSmith2
RogerSmith2

Ironic as the haters hated Walmart because of it's overseas products.Another example of how liberalism is a mental disorder.

TomTito1
TomTito1

I don't see the word donate. They are buying stuff from us. That's a good thing.


I don't see any mention of buying more stuff than they would already buy, so maybe this is just  a phony PR show about buying things they need at the cheapest price.


In any case I'm glad they are promoting made in America products.

Dean Klein
Dean Klein

Yeah Walmart is such a terrible company, employing all those unskilled inexperienced workers, shame on them. And how dare they put money back into the community through charity. And who do they think they are bringing business into a community. These people have some nerve.

Brad Terrell
Brad Terrell

Mike Rowe does not represent Walmart ....hahaha. Even after presumably you watched the video and read the article, you still try to place him in that role. This is an example of exactly what is wrong with America. A bunch of people on both sides of the fence who twist the truths to match there conceptions of what is best, and totally ignore the facts and the truth

ChrisStoneking
ChrisStoneking

No one is forced to do business with Walmart, and no one is forced to work there either. If your skills are in demand at places other than walmart, you should drop them a resume. If they're not, you should educate yourself and make yourself more marketable. If you have visible tattoos, piercings, or visibly lazy or generally s__tty attitude, you should consider yourself fortunate to be employed at all.

Making demands for things when you have nothing to offer in return is the progressive viewpoint, and it has no basis in reality..

Louie Goitz
Louie Goitz

Jim Diaz, tell us who in america will work for a dollar an hour?not even illegal aliens.

david caruso
david caruso

lgbt is NOT a civil rights issue.  Progressive leftists, are, at times, mindless ideologs, opposed to any idea that is based in common sense. Most workers a Wal-Mart make more than minimum wage after 6 months, but there is no union involved. That is exactly why they can offer products that the poor can afford, and work their way up the middle class latter. And who is looking out for the poor, and middle class, it is certainly not the progressives or OBama. 

Jesse Hart
Jesse Hart

Jim Diaz, so it's progressives who forced Wal-Mart to demand prices from its suppliers that could only be satisfied by using slave labor? Why would Wal-Mart pay for products made by employees when they can just pay middle men to use slaves for their manufacturing?

Jim Diaz
Jim Diaz

The enemy is not Wal-Mart but the liberal progressive YOU voted in like a little sheep you are. Unions also bare the brunt of the blame by making it vastly more expensive to HIRE PEOPLE. If Wal-Mart wants to spend BILLIONS into helping to revive our manufacturing industries all the power to them.

EdMorgano
EdMorgano

Nice perspective about unions.  I have a question though.  If the Lawyers union is good for Lawyers (American Bar Association) and the Doctors union is good for doctors (American Medical Association) then why is a workers union bad for workers?  Almost every profession has an association which is essentially a union.  

bil1943
bil1943

@EdMorgano the ABA and AMA are not unions. Unions, by definition, have memberships in lockstep with each other. Lawyers and doctors aren't in lockstep with anyone. They are professional associations, not unions. SEIU, UAW, Teamsters, AFL-CIO on the other hand, are lockstep Democratic voting organizations, out to hold up the American workers and the American employers for all they can get. Makes Walmart look like the good shepherd. The labor unions were once good for the workers, but their day is long over and they are no longer needed, as witness the recent UAW election where they lost bigtime.

EdMorgano
EdMorgano

@bil1943 @EdMorgano  If you're referring to the UAW election at the VW plant, they didn't lose bigtime.  They did lose, but guess what, VW has already said that they probably won't approve the building of any more plants in the south because they are committed to worker/employer committees   (I think that's the word they used), so guess what, by voting against the union they probably screwed themselves out of some economic growth in the south.  Also, the last I read, they were probably going to have to re-vote because some of the Republicans down here illegally interfered with the elections.


bil1943
bil1943

@EdMorgano @bil1943 Anyone who thinks the a union and a professional association are the same, based in dictionary definitions, has no idea of the real world. Are you a teacher, a college professor, other government employee or community organizer?

A professional association like the AMA or ABA sets professional standards. A trade union has them set for it, in bargaining agreements.

Then the union tries to figure out how to violate them, while professionals live and work by them.

bil1943
bil1943

@EdMorgano @bil1943 They can have worker/employer committees without unions. Companies have been doing that for years. The only reason for unions today is to protect the incompetent.

As to "screwing themselves" I doubt seriously that the ownership was in favor of unionizing. If they decide not build in the south, VW will be the first car builder in decades to make that decision. VW may want unions because a) they're German, and look at Germany, and/or b) because they need someone to blame for the quality of their cars.

EdMorgano
EdMorgano

@bil1943 @EdMorgano  Changing the name from union to association does not change the reality.  The AMA is there to limit admission to their club.  By doing that, they control the supply of doctors which keeps the demand and fees high.  It's obvious that you don't like workers.  I won't try to guess why, but insulting me doesn't enhance your argument.  Unions help workers and you don't like that.  I accept that, but please don't spew lies to try and justify your position.  This is a link from Reuters about the VW plant.  If you read it, you might learn something: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/25/us-autos-vw-uaw-idUSBREA1O21S20140225

EdMorgano
EdMorgano

@bil1943 @EdMorgano  

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/labor%20union

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/professional+association


If you read those two definitions you will see that they have about the same meaning.  An association is there to control entry...which would be equivalent to a closed union shop (illegal in all or most states).  Other than that, a union and an association are both for the purpose of benefiting its members.  Funny you should mention that unions are bad while the income gap between rich and poor is greater than anytime before the great depression while unions have declined during the last 30 years.  A hell of a lot of money has gone into convincing workers that unions aren't in their best interest.  Decline in labor unions = Decline in wages

Jim Diaz
Jim Diaz

Two reasons. Progressive Liberals and Unions. Both make it prohibitive to hire and operate within the United States.

Jim Diaz
Jim Diaz

You forget that it is the "progressive" policies by the DEMOCRATS and UNIONS who drove those said companies to China. Because China gives them the better deal. kick the progressive liberals out of tax and financial policy and watch the jobs come roaring back.

EdMorgano
EdMorgano

So you want all american workers to work for 1.25/day?  I'm sure that will help our economy.

ChrisStoneking
ChrisStoneking

@EdMorgano  Well, if a buck and a quarter a day is all you are worth...
But who said anything about $1.25 a day?

Evelyn L. Morey
Evelyn L. Morey

Mike Rowe is a decent guy who stands up for principles

Jesse Hart
Jesse Hart

I like much of what I've heard from Rowe over the years, but he's wrong to promote Wal-Mart, and we definitely should take him to task for it. Wal-Mart has been one of the biggest players undermining American manufacturing and pressuring for slave labor in places like China over the last couple decades. Try to make excuses for him if you want, but how much you want to bet Wal-Mart paid him more in a day than the average Wal-Mart employee makes over several years? And just for him to boost their image a bit.

Louie Goitz
Louie Goitz

We must pay more for American goods because workers in China are paid slave wages and China has no qualms about ruining the environment. Next question.

Johnny Ritchie
Johnny Ritchie

Walmart workers can only afford to buy from their "Company Sto"....even after adding tax payers subsidies...like the old Tennessee Ernie song "Load 16 tons"..

voter suppression
voter suppression

Have you ever been in Asia?

Do you think the wages are the same?

Have you not learned that $4.00 is the average wage for labor per day?

How do i know this, i live in Asia.
Here hard work is a necessity not an option, if you want to eat.

Johnny Ritchie
Johnny Ritchie

True, seeing as how Walmart has sent a trillion dollars of American wages form "used to be" American Factories to China's cheap labor Factories.

Ronald Edwards
Ronald Edwards

I'm having a hard time believing that IVN isn't a shill for the wealthy right about now.

Louie Goitz
Louie Goitz

5 quarts of mobil 1 at walmart, $25, at pep boys,$39 I'm not rich enough to ne altruistic .

Chris Lapham
Chris Lapham

Walmart sucks. Haven't bought anything there in years.

Peter Casey
Peter Casey

Don't like Walmart? Blame your neighbors for shopping there.

dorothy
dorothy

I love Rowe!  WORK IS A BEAUTIFUL THING!

Edward Cramp
Edward Cramp

I have two thoughts that come to mind thus far. “The problem that crops up in all discussions of this kind, however, is the ambiguity of the term ‘work,’ particularly in a capitalist society. It has at least three distinct meanings that are relevant.” https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/02/work-it/ “’Work’ and jobs are not the answer to ending poverty.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allan-sheahen/jobs-are-not-the-answer_b_3727048.html So, I guess I would say it might be a partisan issue, depending on what you mean and what it precludes.

Jack Waugh
Jack Waugh

Would those mfg. jobs release carbon compounds into the atmosphere?

Laurie Gagne
Laurie Gagne

Finally someone with a bit of common sense! What has happened to the days when kids would hang out in the garage to work on their car, or tinker around with, oh , I don't know, anything that requires a hands on approach. I agree, lets get back to work and help American families learn how to earn a living instead of running to the mailbox for their monthly check!

ChadettaBlankenship
ChadettaBlankenship

Personally,   I think Mike has done a great deal.  I love the fact he is calling the American COMPANIES to come home.  We are still here.  WE should tax every business $100.00 a year for  every employee it has overseas.  Those jobs should be ours.  Maybe $1000.00 a year for each employee.....We don't get the employment---but they sell their goods.  Perhaps those companies could come back to RIGHT TO WORK states where they don't have to put up with unions and demands...perhaps they could come back and offer the AMERICANS the work they deserve.  The work they had before the companies decided on profits over people.  Perhaps they could respect their birthplace.....perhaps they could respect our country and theirs.....asking too much????  I don't think so....

ChrisStoneking
ChrisStoneking

@ChadettaBlankenship  I agree. It's always rankled that a lot of these major corporations started out as small ones that grew on the backs of American workers and consumers.
Then they take all their toys and go somewhere else just to widen the profit margin?
Not cool.