Recently, a number of groups taking the form of “worker centers” have staged walkouts of fast food restaurants in several cities. The most prominent has been Fast Food Forward in New York City, but Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit have also seen some activity. The Detroit Free Press reports on events in that city:
Organizers in Detroit said several hundred food workers participated in the walkouts, which succeeded in disrupting operations at six chain restaurants in the city, including two McDonald’s, a Subway, a Burger King, a Long John Silver’s and a Popeyes. […] The Detroit strike was organized by a coalition of labor, faith and activist groups calling itself the Michigan Workers Organizing Committee.
Of course, these “Workers Organizing Committees” aren’t exactly forthcoming about who sponsors them. Unsurprisingly, the Service Employees International Union, which has been plotting a campaign to organize fast food restaurants for years, appears ultimately and financially responsible. Unions’ federal financial disclosures show that the SEIU has put over $2.5 million into the organizations fronting the NYC campaign.
With that level of investment, don’t expect unions to give up chasing a potentially deep source of dues—and perhaps just as important, mandatory initiation fees. Unions hope that by rebranding themselves, by dodging reporting requirements and picketing rules by using “workers centers” to lead the line, and by standing in the way of highly popular governance reforms (like the Employee Rights Act) they can reverse their decline. Workers deserve better than that.