Update: After this post went live, the Gig Workers Collective posted a response on its Facebook page. The post describes an even closer collaboration with the UFCW than we documented below. The Collective acknowledged that the union “directly [paid] Facebook for our newly launched ads” and has been “granted…access to our facebook (sic) page.” The Collective also said the UFCW “temporarily directly [hired] two of our long term volunteer organizers to help with the duration of the No On Prop 22 campaign.” The Collective’s post argues that the UFCW managing and paying for its Facebook ads, as well as paying two of its organizers, does not compromise its independence from the union. Readers can decide for themselves whether this explanation adds up.
While that may have been true at the time, the UFCW and other labor groups have been repeatedly connected to the Collective’s activities. This spring, Gig Workers Collective founder Vanessa Bain described “support from the UFCW and other partners” as being “crucial” to its mission. The Collective’s members have in the past worked extensively with Working Washington, a worker center backed by the SEIU that manages a national campaign to organize the gig economy. (Working Washington is the subject of an extensive complaint with the Office of Labor-Management Standards.)
This isn’t the first time a purportedly “grassroots” worker group has been revealed to have union ties. The so-called Fight for $15, launched in 2012, was portrayed as a series of grassroots worker strikes; later financial reports filed with the Department of Labor revealed that the SEIU funded the protests, paid for public relations, and even used its fronts to make direct payments to the strikers.
Filings available next year with the Office of Labor Management Standards will provide greater detail on the UFCW International’s funding commitment. For now, the Gig Workers Collective deserves a permanent asterisk next to its “grassroots” description. As with other such groups, look for the union label.