The union front group known as Fight for $15 is rearing its head again this week, reportedly with its “most ambitious effort in years” to disrupt employers in the fast food industry. This latest round of street theater comes on the heels of unsuccessful walk-outs two weeks ago.
According to the publication Restaurant Business, the group intends to stage several days of protests starting October 2, followed by intense lobbying in 11 states designed to influence the upcoming elections. For its part, Fight for $15 said “it’s go time” and promised a “massive nationwide mobilization October 2-4 – thousands and thousands of people.” Of course, whether or not this latest round gets anywhere near thousands of participants remains to be seen.
As this blog has recounted many times in the last several years, Fight for $15 is a front group—also known as a worker center—sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Since at least 2012, the SEIU has waged a campaign for an inflated minimum wage of $15 per hour, something it has succeeded in achieving in some cities and states. Its real objective of course is and always has been to unionize the fast food industry—in particular McDonald’s—for reasons that seem relatively straightforward: millions of dollars in dues revenue.
The union had hoped that its allies in the Obama administration would help pave the way for successful organizing by upending labor law, in particular by imposing a loosened joint employer standard. Yet, despite sympathetic allies and the SEIU’s investment of tens of millions of dollars, the Fight for $15 has not yielded the intended result, i.e., any new members.
The 2016 election changed the dynamic considerably, and the SEIU was forced to implement serious budget cuts, which seemed to have diminished Fight for $15’s activities last year. But neither they nor the SEIU have cut their losses yet, as this week’s protests are meant to demonstrate.
With mid-terms approaching, Fight for $15 has sought to enlist into their protests other service workers, such as those at airports, hospitals, colleges, and individuals providing home child care. The goal, it seems, is to create the appearance of a mass uprising. But if experience is any guide, the number of those attending Fight for $15’s “strike” will once again fall far short of what’s being advertised.