I love a good conundrum, especially when it highlights sheer hypocrisy. Most people are aware of the ongoing protests this past year regarding the “Fight for $15” movement. Fast food restaurants and big box retailers have been targeted during these protests, allegedly showing their employees fighting for “living wage” of $15 per hour. I have written previously of these efforts, giving my view that this misguided effort does not recognize that a minimum wage job was supposed to be an entry level position, and was never intended to provide a “living wage”. I also have asserted that a successful effort will result in an unprecedented push into automation and self-service for many of the companies affected.

Maybe they should be fighting for unemployment to pay a living wage, since they are fighting to automate their jobs.

At the end of the day, they are still fighting for a minimum wage job. No matter what hourly wage they attain, after the economy adjusts to that reality, they will still be at the bottom of the proverbial economic barrel. By sheer definition minimum actually means minimum. The people convincing them otherwise, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is driving this effort to enlarge its ranks (and union dues), is truly leading them down a path of disappointment.

Today I learned the SEIU is not following their own advice with the protesters involved in the fray. It turns out the SEIU has been paying protesters and organizers to show up and, well, protest at these highly visible events. According to the Wall Street Journal, many of the protesters are not paid $15 an hour by the union; the living wage they are ostensibly demanding. Even more delectable to those of us who think the effort is wholly disingenuous, is that the protesters recently demanded to be recognized as a union, and the union is fighting the effort.

The SEIU is essentially using the McDonald’s franchise defense, which for me is icing on the two-facedness cake.

According to the source story: 

At a “Fight for 15” conference in Richmond, Virginia this month, the protest organizers showed up to demand to unionize themselves. According to the website In These Times, a woman from Las Vegas who works as a union organizer tried to deliver a letter asking the SEIU to confirm it employs them and will allow them to unionize. She was blocked by security.

The SEIU responded that it “supports the ability of all workers” to unionize, “including organizers in the Fight for $15.” But the union also claims it doesn’t employ the workers because the organizers are directly employed by individual organizing committees in each city that has a Fight for $15 campaign. 

So, to be sure we understand this; the workers don’t directly work for the union, rather they work for individual “committees” in each city, even though the money for their salaries comes directly from SEIU. McDonald’s has used a similar defense, saying that each franchise location is an independent business not affiliated with the corporation when it comes to employment standards. By my cipherin’, the protesters are more connected to the SEIU than McDonald’s workers are to the larger corporation. But what do I know?

The SEIU has claimed that it should be allowed to organize “all McDonald’s workers everywhere across the country as a single bargaining unit”. Clearly the SEIU claim that its organizers are essentially franchisees should throw cold water on that argument, except for the pesky ruling they managed to get out of the National Labor Relations Board last year. In August 2015, the NLRB ruled that a business need only exercise “indirect” control over workers to be held accountable in labor disputes. The year before, NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin said companies “could be held jointly liable for the business practices of its franchisees”.


So today, another union, the “Union of Union Representatives”, is seeking to represent the SEIU organizers, and is demanding the SEIU recognize its status as their employer. It has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the NLRB.

It will be interesting to see who prevails in this effort. It is possible the protesters paid to protest an unfair wage will be successful in getting themselves organized and better paid by the people ostensibly funding the fight for others. I wonder of the “Union of Union Representatives” will have to pay protesters to protest on the protesters behalf. If they do, I’d recommend they let their professional protesters organize and pay them a living wage. Or automate the process. Whichever.

Otherwise this could get downright ugly, not to mention damn funny.

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