Report: SEIU spent $19 million to promote 'Fight for $15'

A group called The Center for Union Facts has analyzed financial disclosures and found the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent millions of dollars promoting the effort to increase the minimum wage to $15 and hour. From the Hill:

The Center for Union Facts examined the 2016 financial disclosures the SEIU recently filed with the Labor Department, and discovered nearly $15 million paid to eight worker organizing committees championing the minimum wage push across the country.

Another $1.7 million was paid to BerlinRosen, a New York-based public relations company, according to the SEIU’s financial disclosures.

In all, the SEIU reportedly spent $19 million promoting the so-called ‘Fight for $15.’ The campaign has had some notable successes. The NY Times reported last year on plans to raise the minimum wage in California and New York:

Gov. Jerry Brown of California announced a deal with state lawmakers to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 — a move expected to lift pay for five million workers. And late Thursday Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York reached a deal with legislative leaders to adopt a $15 minimum wage in New York City in 2018 and in its suburbs in 2021, with a $12.50 minimum in upstate New York.

“Once California and New York go, it is likely that more states will follow,” said Paul K. Sonn, general counsel of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage workers.

The push for an increase in the minimum wage has centered around fast-food workers. Predictably, as the minimum wage is scheduled to go up, companies like McDonald’s are announcing the rollout of more automated ordering in the form of a new phone ordering app and touch-screen kiosks. As Jazz Shaw pointed out nearly a year ago, a former McDonald’s CEO warned machines would begin replacing staff at fast food restaurants. All of that to say, the fight for $15 seems likely to benefit a shrinking number of fast-food employees over time.

The SEIU’s membership went up last year even as membership in unions overall declined to an all-time low in 2016.

This report from September of last year explains the change that is happening driven, in part, by Fight for $15.