We have noted before that labor unions are transitioning their organizing models from traditional regulated collective bargaining organizations—National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) unions—to pseudo-union groups like worker centers. While the AFL-CIO moves to admit non-union members like the Sierra Club, their rivals the SEIU have taken the workers center model on full-bore, seeding “Workers Organizing Committees” in several cities that have staged restaurant worker walkouts.
The SEIU would like you to believe that the walkouts are solely the product of local organizers and spontaneous displeasure, but they aren’t. In fact, these workers centers are textbook front groups linked—in some cases, by millions of dollars in support grants—to the international headquarters of one of America’s largest labor unions.
Grassroots groups tend to be sloppy in their image presentation and campaigning (at least at first), but front groups are professional-grade from day one. The SEIU-backed worker centers show this in spades, most notably with their shared text message short-code, 64336. The short-code number appears to belong to Revolution Messaging, a liberal communications shop that employs SEIU alumni. (Tim Tagaris, a partner at Revolution, was previously SEIU’s New Media Director.) For their Department of Labor LM-2 reportable activities, unions paid Revolution almost $1.17 million in 2012.
Sure enough, “committees” in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and other cities use the 64336 short-code for their update communications. Combine that with Change to Win (the SEIU’s union federation) organizers showing pictures on their Twitter pages from the ground for New York City’s Fast Food Forward, and these efforts look even more coordinated.
And the SEIU’s LM-2 form provides additional information about the pseudo-grassroots groups that are protesting restaurants; namely, large sums to other “supporting groups.” United For New York (going by UnitedNY in public) and New York Communities for Change, two supporting groups for Fast Food Forward, each received over $2 million from the SEIU in 2012. Chicago’s Action Now, linked to that city’s “Fight for 15” campaign, also collected $2 million in SEIU grants. Wisconsin Jobs Now, a Milwaukee group stumping for the campaign there, got over $500,000 from the SEIU headquarters.