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Labor groups announced yesterday another iteration of the made-for-media street theater that has marked their ongoing campaign against employers in the fast food industry. This time, they purport that their efforts, which will occur on May 15, will take place in 150 U.S. cities and over 30 countries around the world, though if past experience is much of an indicator one should take that claim with a grain of salt. Either way, the protests planned for next week are part of ongoing campaigns against two industries that have been the object of labor’s desire for some time.
As this blog has reported on numerous occasions (see here, here, here, and here), labor has embarked on a crusade against fast food and retail employers with the aim of unionizing their employees. With catchy slogans like “we can’t survive on $7.25,” union-backed front groups such as Fast Food Forward , Fight for 15, and the Workers Organizing Committee have created a false narrative about the nature of work in these industries amid demands for an inflated minimum wage of $15/hour.
These groups represent labor’s latest tactic in union organizing, the worker center. Worker centers harass employers through repeated protests and attempted work disruptions, all the while skirting federal law that regulates union conduct. Worker centers have been targeting both the fast food and retail industries in earnest since 2012, and they have offered payments such as gift cards to entice actual employees (as opposed to professional activists) to participate in their protests, although very few seem to have done so. Their strategy also includes the publication of dubious reports claiming widespread “wage theft” and recruiting sympathetic politicians to apply the pressure of government against employers alleged to be guilty of such misbehavior.
Despite the smokescreen of fighting “wage theft” and demanding an increased minimum wage, the ultimate goal of the worker center campaigns is unionization. It is no secret that organized labor is in a self-described crisis with union membership having steadily declined for over 50 years, and fast food restaurants and retail stores make an attractive target for unions seeking to replenish their membership rolls — as well as their coffers.
Worker centers portray themselves as employee-led organizations that survive on a shoestring budget. In fact, many leading worker centers are directed by unions and allied groups. They are lavishly funded as well. For example, unions gave more than $20 million to worker centers and affiliated groups in 2013 alone, and between 2009 and 2013, “progressive” foundations gave another $52 million to the worker center movement.
The May 15 protests are certain to include more made-for-media “protests” staffed by professional activists rather than actual employees. Whether these antics reach 150 cities and 30 countries in any meaningful way remains to be seen, but one could be forgiven for being skeptical.