The Service Employees International Union has spent something on the order of $50 million as part of its “Fight for 15” campaign to unionize quick-service restaurants. However, the union isn’t yet collecting much in the way of new dues in response to this massive investment.
We found an old SEIU press release from early 2009, when the 2008 Bureau of Labor Statistics annual estimate of unionization in the workforce came out. It was full of labor optimism, closing as follows (bold in the original):
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual union membership report, released today, shows that the share of workers belonging to a union rose in 2008. This is the largest growth rate on record since the data was first collected in 1983. Growth in SEIU–88,926 members–accounted for nearly 21 percent of the national growth.
Based on a look through SEIU’s press releases of late, though, that growth has stopped. They aren’t bragging about membership growth or a burgeoning union movement anymore, choosing instead to go quiet on the issue. And the numbers confirm it: SEIU’s own membership has been effectively stagnant since it absorbed Workers United (formerly a UNITE Here property) in 2009.
The SEIU and its allies have made a big deal about how “worker centers” and organization efforts like “Fight for 15” show a resurgence in the labor movement. In truth, they are highly speculative, high-risk/high-reward bets that businesses will not show resilience in the face of union attacks. As of today, the money going in is increasing, but the members coming out isn’t.
Meanwhile, union density nationwide—the proportion of the workforce that consists of union members—is continuing its downward trend.