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Big Money And Union Power Behind Grassroots Movement

Critics are pointing to a financial disclosure report released Tuesday as evidence that a self-proclaimed grassroots movement was actually orchestrated by a major labor union.

“These financial disclosures show that the price of an orchestrated national astroturf campaign is steep, with tens of millions of dollars going to fund the consultants, lawyers, and activist groups needed to fund a phony grassroots campaign,” Richard Berman, executive director at the Center for Union Facts, said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The 2014 LM-2 annual report, which was released by the Department of Labor, shows the Service Employees International Union spent millions on the Fight for 15 protests. The protests, which have appeared across the country, claim to be a grassroots movement by minimum wage workers.

“These latest filings are just more proof that when it comes to ‘grassroots protests’ policymakers and reporters should look for the union label,” Berman concluded.

CUF notice significant expenditures in the disclosure report towards groups involved in the protests such as the Workers Organizing Committees which is the main organizer behind the movement. This includes $3.8 million to the Fast Food Workers Committee of New York, $2.9 million to the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, $2 million to the Michigan Workers Organizing Committee, $1.9 million to the Mid-South Workers Organizing Committee and $1.5 million to the Southern Workers Organizing Committee.

It also spent $2.6 million on Working Washington which was a key player in promoting Seattle’s $15 minimum wage push.

Throughout the fast-food protests the SEIU has been criticized by some, like Worker Center Watch, as using the Fight for 15 protests as a way to bypass labor laws to more easily unionize fast food workers. Additionally, according to a report from Union Facts, a minimum wage increase would benefit the SEIU directly while hurting non-unionized SEIU competitors.

The disclosure report also reveals the SEIU put a significant amount of resources in public relations and legal protections that have supported the protests. It spent $1.3 million on the PR firm Berlin Rosen, which coordinates the media for protests, along with spending $150,000 on the Economic Policy Institute and $195,510 on the National Employment Law Project, both of which conducted research helping the SEIU make its case for raising the minimum wage.

Along with that, it spent $1.7 million on the law firm James & Hoffman and $572,000 on the law firm Levy Ratner, both of which have assisted the SEIU in its legal efforts against companies like McDonald’s.

Despite all this, Fight for 15 has claimed to be a workers initiative. Those behind the group have noted they aren’t just fighting for fast food workers, they are fast food workers.

“As low wage workers we know what it’s like to struggle to get by,” a statement on its website proclaimed. “Because our pay is too low, we struggle to pay our bills and put food on the table. McDonald’s answer? Go on food stamps.  We’re robbed on the job by our employers looking to cut corners. Employers that are multi-billion dollar corporations.  Even though we work hard, we’re forced to live in poverty.”

Fight for 15 is holding a national rally Apr. 15 in support of raising the minimum wage.

TheDCNF could not reach the SEIU, EPI and NELP for additional comment.

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