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Union bosses are lovin’ $15-an hour fast-food protests

By   /   April 16, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

AP photo

HEATING UP: Labor officials want fast-food workers to unionize, so they can keep filling up while union membership rates in other industries run dry.

By Jason Hart | Watchdog.org

Labor bosses collect some super-sized paychecks, and they’re in no mood to order off the dollar menu.

Officials with six-figure salaries led “Fight for $15” strikes across the country Wednesday. They want fast-food workers to unionize, so they can keep filling up while union membership rates in other industries run dry.

Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry, who was paid $276,439 in worker dues in 2014, joined union activists at a McDonald’s protest in San Francisco.

Say Henry works full-time. Her hourly wage, then, amounts to $132.90 an hour. Say she worked 60-hour weeks. She would still make $88.60 — per hour.

Henry was one of nine SEIU officers and employees paid more than $200,000 last year. Union secretary-treasurer Michael Fishman got $250,615, deputy chief of staff Scott Courtney was paid $232,060, and executive vice president Gerald Hudson made $227,605.

Average pay at SEIU headquarters was $83,960 in 2014, equivalent to more than $40 an hour at 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. The union paid 252 officers and employees more than $100,000 each.

For several years, SEIU has tried to unionize the fast-food industry. The union has spent almost $50 million on the Fight for $15 campaign, according to Worker Center Watch.

 

Complaining about CEO pay, Henry expounded on her demand that entry-level workers get $15 an hour so they can “afford the basics” in a Huffington Post column published Wednesday.

Henry can afford the basics and then some, courtesy of 1.9 million SEIU members and 176,969 forced “fair share” fee payers.

But would a $15 minimum wage really help workers?

Research has shown minimum wage hikes increase prices and reduce employment, especially in industries employing a large number of low-wage workers.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects a $10.10 national minimum wage, which President Obama wants, would increase some workers’ incomes, but “the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.”

James Sherk, an economist from the conservative Heritage Foundation, has estimated a $15 minimum wage would increase fast-food prices an average 38 percent.

Less than 3 percent of working Americans are paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or less; 50 percent of minimum wage earners are 16 to 24, and 64 percent work part-time, according to Pew Research Center.

SEIU isn’t part of union coalition AFL-CIO, but the coalition still promoted Fight for $15 Wednesday. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who was paid $322,131 last year, expressed his support.

Working America, AFL-CIO’s community organizing arm, celebrated SEIU’s success in getting social media attention for Fight for $15.

United Food & Commercial Workers, an AFL-CIO affiliate, supports Fight for $15 and uses similar organizing tactics through its Organization United for Respect at Walmart campaign.

Throughout Wednesday, SEIU organizers and front groups shared triumphant announcements of fast-food closures due to Fight for $15 protests.

Progressive groups including the Center for American Progress sought to help SEIU create the impression of widespread support for a $15 minimum wage and unionized fast-food workers.

SEIU paid CAP and its CAP Action affiliate $452,699 in 2014 alone, based on the union’s annual report to the U.S. Department of Labor.

About half of SEIU’s 1.9 million members are private-sector workers; the rest are government employees. SEIU did not respond to Watchdog questions about how the union’s membership drives its political activism.

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Jason is an Ohio-based reporter covering labor issues for Watchdog.org, with a focus on right-to-work, public employee unions and Obamacare. Before joining Watchdog, Jason was communications director for Media Trackers Ohio. His work has been featured at FoxNews.com, Hot Air, The Daily Signal, RedState, Townhall and elsewhere. His investigations into labor union spending and Obamacare's Medicaid expansion have been cited by national commentators including Jim Geraghty, Michelle Malkin, Erick Erickson, Dana Loesch and Mark Levin. Jason can be reached on Twitter at @jasonahart and by email at jhart@watchdog.org