Opinion
              Demonstrators in support of fast food workers protest outside a McDonald

SEIU’s Fast Food Campaign Makes Up The Rules As It Goes

Photo of Ryan Williams
Ryan Williams
Senior Advisor, Worker Center Watch

Unions have been increasingly unable to effectively organize within the legal framework that has governed their operations for the better part of a century. The reason is simple: the union organizing model is a relic of a bygone area. Facing dwindling membership numbers, unions bemoan the “outdated” labor laws that they claim make it impossible to win organizing drives. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, and the SEIU has concocted a series of creative law-dodging evasive maneuvers to stave off irrelevancy.

Big Labor’s most ambitious play is directing friendly regulators and elected officials to toss aside legal precedent in order to clear a path for the SEIU – which survives by siphoning off the largest bank account. To that end, the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel, Richard Griffin, recently threw the SEIU a lifeline by ignoring decades of precedent to establish that McDonald’s USA and McDonald’s franchisees are joint employers. In home healthcare, the SEIU concocted a similar scheme in California and then doggedly pursued “employers-of-record” in other states. The Illinois Supreme Court struck down this money grab in that state via the Harris v. Quinn ruling. Also noteworthy is that Michigan Governor Granholm’s gift of 59,000 home healthcare workers to the SEIU was rolled back when her term expired. Overnight, the SEIU lost close to 44,000 members. Hopefully the courts or a new NLRB board will give Griffin’s decision the same treatment.

The SEIU and other unions have similarly dodged labor law requirements by funding non-profit worker centers to lead the national “Fight for 15” campaign. These groups, which assert that they’re not “labor organizations,” can do and say the things that unions can’t. To demonstrate how intentionally blurred the lines are between the two, Jonathan Westin is Organizing Director for New York Communities for Change (NYCC), a non-profit front group funded by the SEIU to organize workers, and he is also on the board of the Fast Food Committee, a labor organization set up as part of the SEIU’s national campaign. Westin can claim to be with a union when it suits him, and claim not to be when it doesn’t. Congress has called multiple hearing on the matter and opened investigations into some of these groups, but a friendly Department of Labor is determined to focus its resources expanding enforcement actions against employers, rather than enforcing existing regulations against labor allies.

Mimicking the actions of another allied group, OUR Walmart, organizers for the Fight for 15 protests kicking off today intend to trespass, stage arrests, and create general havoc. Courts in at least five states have banned the UFCW and its allies from protesting on company property, recognizing that union-backed campaigns like OUR Walmart violate the rights of workers, just as much as the rights of employers.

It’s not difficult to spot the pattern. For unions and their worker center surrogates, the rules don’t apply. In many cases, they’re making up the rules as they go along – working with bureaucrats and elected officials to rewrite regulations in their favor. Rather than changing with the times, unions have done all they can to force an antique model on the modern American economy, relying on bought-and-paid-for political allies to provide them legal justification for a huge money grab.