“Sit down and tell me what you really think about the minimum wage…”
Here’s a “Sounds Boring, Actually Quite Interesting” news nugget: the Obama administration has hired a former McDonald’s flack to fill a senior PR role in the Labor Department.
Why is this story worth a closer look?
Because Labor Secretary Tom Perez‘s current Big Project involves pushing the administration’s plans to raise the federal minimum wage—a plan strongly opposed by every fast-food chain and every fast food flack. Ofelia Casillas was formerly the national media relations rep for the Big Mac dudes, but now she’s advising Perez on how better to sell that very plan by acting as a “liason” between the Labor Department and advocacy groups on both sides of the issue. Sound like a tough fit? Mother Jones reminds us she once told Bloomberg that workers striking for higher pay were not “providing an accurate picture of what it means to work at McDonald’s.”
She’s right, of course. A more accurate picture would have included some notes advising employees to chew slowly so they don’t have to eat more than they can afford on their salaries.
So Obama hired someone who specialized in convincing people to side with McDonald’s to try and convince people not to side with McDonald’s. She will be meeting with business groups and workers’ rights groups and presumably trying to convince them that it’s in their best interests to go along with the wage bump.
Hold on, though: she’s no free-market purist. Her former roles include a gig at the ACLU and a press secretary position with the Obama campaign.
Of course PR is about serving the interests of your current client/employer, but we can’t think of a bigger flip-flop than this one—and we can’t decide whether it’s a brilliant “role reversal” or the safest possible move to make.