Journalism Union Welcomes Fight for 15 Activists

Organizers for SEIU-backed movement join United Media Guild

Demonstrators fighting for a $15-per-hour minimum wage march through downtown during rush hour on May 23, 2017 in Chicago

Demonstrators fighting for a $15-per-hour minimum wage march through downtown during rush hour on May 23, 2017 in Chicago / Getty Images

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Activists at the Service Employees International Union-backed Fight for $15 movement have joined a journalism union.

The United Media Guild announced it has now become the national representative of organizers working for the Fight for $15 movement, which has sponsored demonstrations outside of franchise restaurants demanding a $15 minimum wage. UMG said that it attained majority support through a card check campaign bypassing a secret ballot election. It will now serve as the bargaining agent for all organizers affiliated with the movement.

"The UMG is pleased to announced we now represent organizers coast to coast in the consolidated national fast food campaign," the union announced on its website. "‘Fight For 15' is the international movement of underpaid workers taking a stand against poverty wages. The activists we’ve represented have worked the front lines of that battle."

UMG had previously been a regional player in the movement. It represented Fight for $15 organizers in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee,and Louisiana. It is now working to negotiate a contract with SEIU affiliate National Fast Food Workers Union.

Neither Fight for $15, nor SEIU responded to requests for comment. An SEIU spokesman told Bloomberg that it welcomes the opportunity to bargain with organizers.

"The parties look forward to working together in a constructive bargaining relationship based on mutual respect," it said in a statement.

The SEIU has spent tens of millions of dollars on the Fight for $15 movement in recent years, pumping the money into regional nonprofit groups that conduct demonstrations outside of fast food restaurants. The industry has been notoriously hard to organize because of franchising, which requires unions to organize on a restaurant-by-restaurant basis, rather than a top-down organizing routine.

While the SEIU has not made much headway in collecting new members in the industry, it has captured media attention in recent years while partnering with the influential public relations firm BerlinRosen.

The United Media Guild, formerly the St. Louis Newspaper Guild, is a relatively small chapter of the Communications Workers union, an AFL-CIO affiliate. It had 218 members, according to its most recent federal labor filings. New members paid 1.6 percent of their salaries toward initiation fees on top of the 1.6 percent the union also charges for annual dues. It collected more than $211,000 in dues and agency fees in 2016.

UMG did not respond to request for comment.

Fight for $15 has been embroiled in controversy in the wake of sexual harassment scandals. Two top leaders of the movement as well as other SEIU executives have been fired for reported sexual harassment. A former SEIU organizer who worked with the movement told the Washington Free Beacon that she was harassed by two supervisors and that the union's human resources department did not appear to sanction either of them despite her complaints. The union has said it has launched investigations into all sexual harassment complaints.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.

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