- - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

“Beware the person with nothing to lose,” warns an old proverb. The same counsel can be applied to the SEIU which like other labor groups has faced decades of declining membership. The SEIU has, indeed, nothing to lose in its relentless attempts to unionize fast food workers. The union doesn’t care, for example, that its smear campaign against major brands could lead to reduced sales that ultimately cut into workers’ hours and pay. Nor is the SEIU interested in debating the feasibility of its call for a $15 minimum wage. If enacted, the enormous wage hike would undoubtedly cause more companies to seek technology – not workers – to fulfill customer orders. Plus, fewer restaurants would be willing to hire inexperienced workers and give them their first entry into the job market.

The SEIU isn’t interested in the negative impacts of its “Fight for 15” campaign because it has one goal in mind: add new members. New members mean new revenue for the union. And despite its purported altruism, nearly everything the SEIU does can be boiled down to organizing new workers to collect more dollars.

Let’s not forget the union also needs to pay salaries for its top brass and those don’t come cheap. Lead organizers for the SEIU earn six-figures for orchestrating protests against fast food brands. Kendall Fells is president of New York City’s Fast food Workers Committee. Fells is also the SEIU’s city coordinator. According to filings by labor groups released in late-March, Fells earns $137,692 for managing the SEIU’s campaign against McDonalds and other brands.

Kevin Doyle acts as “secretary” for NYC’s Fast Food Workers Committee – earning $101,266 from the SEIU for his duties. Fortunately for Doyle, SEIU Local 32 contributes another $82,500 to his salary for acting as “special adviser.” Across the country, Ryan Dowling earns $195,987 as president of the East Bay Organizing Committee and city coordinator for the SEIU’s efforts in Oakland and the surrounding metros. Dowling must be doing something right because in 2013 he only earned $159,982. Fells, Doyle and Dowling are just a few the many organizers earning big bucks from the SEIU.

As part of its “nothing to lose strategy,” the SEIU is also pouring tens of millions into local markets where it hopes to organize fast food workers. In Chicago alone, the union dumped $3.1 million over the last year into Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago and Action Now. In Michigan, the SEIU spent more than $2 million on protests in Detroit, funneling the money through the Michigan Workers Organizing Committee. Atlanta and Charleston, S.C., are among the cities that receive funding for fast food protests through the Southern Workers Organizing Committee. Last year, the SEIU directed nearly $1.5 million just to SWOC.

The SEIU’s affiliate workers organizing committees fund the “Fight for 15” protests in various cities. But the money for these faux-grassroots campaign is spent on more than just t-shirts and picket signs. The union regularly uses paid protestors in its marches and will even set aside money to cover the bail and legal fees for protesters who volunteer to be arrested.

The union also needs lots of help in crafting its message so that the fast food protests appear to be worker-driven and not the orchestrated campaign of far-off labor bosses earning fat salaries. So the union hires slick PR firms like Berlin Rosen, which earned more than $1.8 million for propagating the SEIU’s tale of common workers staging impromptu protests. When the union needs a “study” supporting its claims, it turns to Hart Research – which last year earned $302,499 for conducting “polls” that reach whatever forgone conclusion the SEIU determines in advance. Hart has been criticized for using unscientific methods in its polling – and was taken to the woodshed by the Washington Post – but none of that matters to the SEIU.

Facts are not part of its “nothing to lose” strategy that includes outrageous claims that are extrapolated to an entire industry. With help from Berlin Rosen and Hart, the SEIU would have us believe that thousands of restaurant workers are treating burns with mustard and mayonnaise. This claim would almost be laughable if it didn’t exploit workers while attempting to further besmirch brands and small business employers.

On April 15th, the SEIU will once again stage protests against fast food brands in major markets. Union organizers have been planning the protests for months. In some cases the SEIU will be bussing protestors to multiple locations and using other union members such as healthcare workers to fill empty seats.

By now most Americans and members of the media are keenly aware that these protests are a desperate and deceptive ploy funded by the SEIU. Most people also realize that the union is hardly the champion of any cause but its own. What some may not realize, however, is how much the SEIU continues to invest in its organizing campaign against fast food companies. The campaign is a costly charade fueled by union greed and not interests of the workers’ the SEIU proclaims it is defending.

Ashley Pratte is a senior adviser for Worker Center Watch.

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