SEIU Slashes Fight for $15 Funding

Apr 04, 2018 - 3:00pm

Executive Director, Labor Policy

bloomberg_fightfor15_unionsigns_2015_800px.jpg

Pro-union signs lay in the street before the start of a "Fight for $15" rally in New York.
Pro-union signs lay in the street before the start of a "Fight for $15" rally in New York. Photo credit: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently submitted to the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) its annual financial report for 2017.  The report, known as the LM-2, is required by law and provides detailed information about the union’s receipts and expenses, as well as payments to individual officers and employees.

The SEIU’s latest LM-2 shows that the union had total receipts around $314 million in 2017, which is about $10 million higher than the previous year, but it still represents a relatively low amount compared to five years prior, when the SEIU’s receipts were $411 million.  The SEIU’s total disbursements amounted to $273 million, approximately $41.5 million less than the prior year and a whopping $180 million decrease compared to 2012. 

Perhaps the most revealing detail in the SEIU’s report is that the union slashed funding for its Fight for $15 campaign for an inflated minimum wage. In 2016, the SEIU spent nearly $15 million for the various organizing committees responsible for orchestrating the campaign, but in 2017 the SEIU’s funding for them dropped dramatically to $7.8 million.

As this blog has observed before, the SEIU has poured millions of dollars—at least $70 million, which is a conservative estimate—in the last several years for the Fight for $15 with little to show for its “investment.”  The SEIU’s real objective all along has been to garner more members by organizing the fast food industry, but despite its efforts, membership has not changed much.  The union reported a total of 1,919,358 members, which is in fact higher than in 2012 when it started the Fight for $15, but still lower than one year before that, when membership stood at 1,921,768.

To be fair, the Fight for $15 has succeeded in enacting inflated minimum wage ordinances in numerous localities and a handful of states.  As an aside, however, it is worth noting that organized labor often employs a cynical tactic in doing so by seeking an exemption from the higher minimum wage for employers with a unionized workforce. In other words, if an employer accepts unionization, they could potentially negotiate a lower wage—it’s a win-win deal, except for the workers of course.

In response to inquiries about the SEIU’s funding for the Fight for $15, a spokesperson denied that the union was abandoning its campaign, saying that it was merely “shifting gears” by shuffling money to different areas that purportedly would not be reflected in the LM-2 report.  Of course, since all of the union’s expenditures are required by law to be included on the report, it is unclear as to how the SEIU would omit money spent elsewhere.

Either way, after several years and several million dollars, it appears that the SEIU’s leadership has finally decided to substantially curtail the union’s funding for the Fight for $15, which is a positive development for the union members whose dues have sustained the whole thing.

More Articles On: 

About the Author

About the Author

Executive Director, Labor Policy