The Workplace Report

The Union Behind The Fight For $15 Movement Has A Union Problem

Will the SEIU’s joint employer argument for fast food companies come back to haunt the union?

Fight for 15 - Stewart AcuffIt is no secret that the Service Employees International Union is the driving force behind the so-called Fight for $15 movement.

Indeed, since it devised the plan to unionize the fast-food industry in 2009, the notorious SEIU has spent tens of millions of its union members’ dues dollars funding protests across the nation—often using organizers employed by front groups called “worker centers” to help facilitate the protests.


Now, however, some of the organizers organizing the Fight for $15 movement are seeking a union of their own, according to the Waging NonViolence newsletter.

The Union of Union Representatives, or UUR, which represents nearly 100 SEIU organizers, researchers and other staff, went public with the campaign on May 21, in hopes of garnering the attention necessary to win what has turned into an ugly fight. Launching the campaign on social media and in person at Fight for $15 protests held in Chicago outside of the McDonald’s shareholder convention, organizers had a chance to spread the demand to staff not yet involved in the campaign.

According to Nicholas Calderon, a UUR vice president and shop steward, 15 organizers with the Fight for $15 campaign submitted UUR membership cards on April 12. Three days later, Christopher Prado, a Las Vegas-based Fight for $15 organizer and one of the original group to file for representation, was fired.

“At noon on Tuesday, April 12, I had a meeting with management about my work and our plan for the next 10 weeks,” Prado said over the phone. “At 5 p.m., we submitted our request as Fight for $15 organizers to be absorbed into the UUR contract. And on Friday, April 15, I was retaliated against.” His managers fired him with one week’s severance pay.

While Calderon acknowledges Fight for $15 organizers are not directly employed by the SEIU, the SEIU’s position “is a particularly contradictory move for the Fight for $15, which has brought lawsuits against McDonald’s based on the argument that a parent company is responsible for labor violations allegedly committed by its franchisees.”

If the National Labor Relations Board rules that McDonald’s is a “joint employer” of its franchises, it is not a far stretch for the Union of Union Representatives to use the claim against the SEIU and its subsidiary “worker centers.”

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