Today, union organizers and a handful of disgruntled fast-food employees are to protest large restaurant chains in the U.S. and other countries, demanding a $15 minimum wage. The organizers behind the demonstrations are misleadingly calling them “strikes.” In reality, they’re Potemkin village protests orchestrated by national labor unions and PR flacks.
The muscle behind these protests is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has spent over $15 million on fast-food protests since January 2013. Until recently, the majority of this funding was distributed directly to the so-called “worker centers” that are the face of the protests. After these connections came under scrutiny, however, the SEIU added another layer of obscurity to its funding web: “Workers Organizing Committees” (WOCs).
WOCs are essentially union front groups that fund the worker centers. The archetypical WOC is the Fast Food Workers Committee in New York. Last year it reported zero members, yet received $1.8 million from the SEIU (99 percent of its revenues) and sent $1.6 million out the back door to New York Communities for Change.
SEIU’s control over WOCs also extends to their leadership. The Fast Food Workers Committee in New York is led by Kendall Fells, who is listed on official SEIU filings as New York’s City coordinator. The Worker Organizing Committee of Chicago lists E.J. Serrano as its president, who simultaneously serves as the Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana. The list goes on.
The brain (if you can call it that) behind today’s protests is PR shop BerlinRosen. Founded by Democrat communications flacks Valerie Berlin and Joshua Rosen, BerlinRosen is the go-to PR firm for left-wing organizations, Democratic politicians, and labor unions.
Filings with the Labor Department reveal the level of BerlinRosen’s involvement: In 2013, it received nearly $4 million from various unions. Since 2012, it’s received over $3.25 million directly from the SEIU and local affiliates.
BerlinRosen isn’t paid that money for press releases. The quarterbacking of all communications for these protests helps explain the similarities of the carefully stage-managed events. As the Daily Caller reported last year, nine different fast-food employees on nine separate occasions complained of not being able to afford shoes for their children.
At the end of the day, these protests aren’t about fast-food employees demanding higher pay; they’re about the SEIU’s war against the food industry. If you encounter one while out for lunch, ask for no union, hold the spin.
Richard Berman is the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, which operates WorkerCenters.com.