Is the Fight for $15 campaign really about American workers? Or is it instead a way for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to seem relevant and influential while padding the pockets of union organizers?
These are important questions to keep in mind as the “Fight for $15 National Day of Action” occurs on Tuesday, November 10 in presidential battleground states across the country.
In this photo taken, Aug. 1, 2013, demonstrators protesting what they say are low wages and improper treatment for fast-food workers march in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
The SEIU has long been recognized as the architect and puppet master of protests against the fast food industry. Hopefully by now, many Americans are aware that these staged demonstrations, like the November 10 National Day of Action, are orchestrated and bankrolled by the nation’s second largest union. What many people don’t realize, however, is just how much the SEIU has invested in propagating this supposedly “grassroots” campaign.
For years, the SEIU has tried to intentionally hide and downplay their involvement in the Fight for $15 movement– using different names and local worker centers to portray the campaign’s efforts as organic grassroots uprisings. They’ve hired well-paid staff and deployed them to cities around the country to organize strikes. They’ve spent $637,243 in strike benefits to individuals involved, despite not reporting any new members. Many question if these strikers are even fast food workers at all, or simply an orchestrated charade.
It turns out, the Fight for $15 movement is really lucrative business for labor bosses. According to the latest reports on file, the SEIU has sunk almost $80 million in this three year battle organizing fast food workers. Their top-heavy staff includes SEIU Deputy Chief of Staff and chief strategist for the Fight for $15 campaign, Scott Courtney, who earns upwards of $232,090 a year in salary. Executive assistants for top officials have been known to make well into the six figures, as well -- far, far more than the $15 an hour they are pushing for fast food workers.
If the Fight for $15 campaign succeeds as they’ve envisioned it, the SEIU will see additional revenue in the billions from new dues-paying union members. With private sector union membership down to less than 6.6 percent of private sector workers, according to Pew, if the SEIU is able to unionize even one third of the nation’s fast food workers, they stand to bring in over $34 million per month to fill their coffers.
To garner attention and keep the campaign waging, they’ve taken an all or nothing approach. Instead of acquiescing to piecemeal unionization of, say, a few fast food franchises at a time, then using that leverage to negotiate in incremental steps, the SEIU instead is only interested in a massive, industry-wide change. Top campaign officials according to the Labor Union Report, have said the campaign will “continue spending whatever it takes to sustain the movement.” Of course they will – the payoff for them is massive.
This expensive public relations campaign is very clearly about increasing union ranks and influence, not about worker wages. The SEIU is misleading the media, the public, and most importantly, the workers in their desperate pursuit of new revenues.
Union membership has been in steady decline because its outdated model is no longer something workers are willing to pay for. Today’s workers want to keep more of their paycheck, not fork over thousands a year in dues to an organization that spends lavishly to support political candidates and issues in which they disagree. Employees should have a choice, and be able to individually advocate for themselves without paying dues to a union. The Fight for $15 campaign is propagating a myth, and is just the latest charade to bolster and benefit Big Labor.
Ashley Pratte is a senior adviser to Worker Center Watch.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.