Sean P. Redmond Vice President, Labor Policy

Published

May 24, 2017

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The union front group Fight for $15 was at it again this week with demonstrations against its perennial target, the McDonald’s Corporation, which is hosting its annual shareholders meeting. However, after boasting of a large-scale protest, the so-called March on McDonald’s did not exactly live up to its organizers’ hype, which could mean that the budget cuts at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are starting to have an impact.

As this blog has noted previously, the Fight for $15 has been the SEIU’s front group in an ongoing campaign against fast food companies like McDonald’s for several years. While the group emphasizes its desire for an inflated minimum wage of $15 per hour—and, indeed it has succeeded in achieving that goal in some cities and states—its real objective is and always has been to unionize the fast food industry.

To pursue that objective, the SEIU has spent tens of millions of dollars of its members’ dues since the Fight for $15 started around 2012. Indeed, it spent nearly $17 million in 2016 and similar amounts in prior years with total spending reaching $72 million overall (conservatively estimated). For all that effort and cash, however, the SEIU has nothing to show for it when it comes to new members.

This blog also noted recently that the SEIU announced at the end of 2016 that it would implement a 30 percent budget cut this year to curtail the hemorrhaging, and it raised the question of what might become of the Fight for $15.

One strategy that has become apparent is that the Fight for $15 intends to hitch its banner to other gatherings. For example a Facebook post about the planned demonstration indicated that the organizers would partner groups like 350.org, Color Of Change, Our Revolution, Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, The Movement for Black Lives, NextGen Climate, MoveOn.org and Women's March.

The head of the Fight for $15, Kendall Fells, boldly predicted that the hodge-podge of groups banding together for the March on McDonald’s would draw 10,000 people, but a news report from Reuters observed that the crowds gathered in the “hundreds,” with “dozens” more rallying outside of United Airlines in an apparently connected protest.

The Wall Street Journalpublished an article earlier this week highlighting the foundering Fight for $15 and quoted former SEIU president Andy Stern, who said “The problem for the union is when dues collected from collective bargaining is your only revenue source, a social movement like Fight for $15 transfers money from your members to a broad-based fight…You need a different business model.”

Unfortunately for the SEIU’s dues paying members, after nearly five years with little to show for their ‘investment,’ the union’s leadership seems intent on pouring good money after bad in the apparent hope that their fortunes might change.

About the authors

Sean P. Redmond

Sean P. Redmond

Vice President, Labor Policy

Sean P. Redmond is Vice President, Labor Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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