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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.


Jason was formerly a reporter for Watchdog.org