Have the fast food workers demanding higher pay been coached?
A conservative employment think tank says there has been a striking similarity in the media interviews with fast-food workers demanding $15 an hour: they cannot seem to afford shoes.
Employment Policies Institute research director Michael Saltsman told The Daily Caller that the group was spurred to investigate the trend after reports about a recent confrontation over wages between a McDonald’s employee and the CEO of the company “rang a bell.”
The employee who confronted McDonalds’ president Jeff Stratton, Nancy Salgado, said she “can’t provide a pair of shoes like everybody else does” for her children.
“There are a lot of examples out there of people using this exact same thing, of people not being able to afford shoes,” Saltsman told The Daily Caller.
And past articles reveal there are a number of fast food workers who do struggle to buy shoes.
“It’s a struggle. $7.25 an hour, I can barely afford a light bill, or rent, or shoes for my kids,” McDonald’s employee Victoria Price told an NBC News affiliate in Dallas.
“I can’t afford my shoes or afford my rent. Is that how you’re supposed to be living?” Brooklyn-based McDonald’s employee Kareem Starks told MSNBC.
“I can’t afford to buy my kids shoes,” Milwaukee Burger King employee Tessie Harrell told USA Today.
“Terrance Wise has two jobs in Kansas City — one at a burger joint, a second at a pizza restaurant — but he says his paychecks aren’t enough to buy shoes for his three daughters and insure his 15-year-old car,” The Associated Press reported.
“This year I could only buy two of my three kids shoes for school. That feels awful,” McDonald’s employee Daisha Mims said, according to Memphis’ Commercial Appeal.
“I’ll be able to pay my bills and buy my kids clothes at the same time and not have to divide — ‘do I get the kids shoes or what are we going to eat or how am I going to get to work?'” fast food worker Terrell Bullock said to Kansas City’s KCTV.
“McDonald’s makes billions off of our work, but I can’t even buy my daughter new shoes. We need to be making $15 an hour to get by,” Aunyetta Crosby who striked with workers at a McDonalds in Detroit said, according to the Michigan Chronicle.
With a raise, “We won’t have to run out of here and beg for shoes for our children, or backpacks so they can go to school,” Darlene Battle, president of the Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement, said according to Philly.com.
Saltsman said that while there is no coaching “smoking gun,” the fact that the public relations firm Berlin Rosen represents such of labor unions does make the effort appear less “grassroots.”
The SEIU, United Food and Commercial Workers, and Berlin Rosen did not respond to requests for comment.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writing at Real Clear Markets in August also noted the oddity of a public relations firm representing low wage food workers.
“Some fast food workers on radio and TV are trained by union PR firms. I had the honor of appearing on National Public Radio with Terrance Wise, a 34-year old fast food worker, who was represented by publicist Berlin Rosen. The firm has an impressive list of union clients, including the SEIU,” Furchtgott-Roth wrote.
And to Saltsman — who explained he spent a lot of time working in the food service industry — while a diverse range of people work in the food service industry he has never met a shoeless one.
“I think this just goes to this idea that the SEIU doesn’t want to have a serious policy discussion about $15 an hour, they just want to put examples out there that make their case, even if they are misleading,” he said.