The Service Employees International Union appears to have expanded its pressure campaign against McDonalds overseas, according to a report to be published Friday.
A Center for Union Facts analysis of the union’s federal filings revealed that SEIU spent more than $300,000 of its dues money aiding Piza Advogados Associados (PAA), a Brazilian law firm engaged in a campaign against McDonalds suppliers.
"Among those efforts are advocating for unions before Brazil’s analog to the National Labor Relations Board, called the Justiça do Trabalho or Labor Court. Newspaper reports in Brazil and the United States show Piza attorneys speaking to the media about and filing labor court complaints against McDonald’s Brazilian operations," the report says.
Neither SEIU, nor PAA returned requests for comment.
Richard Berman, executive director at the Center for Union Facts, told the Washington Free Beacon that the SEIU’s multi-million dollar investment in its McDonalds campaign flies in the face of its promise to represent the interests of its members.
The report points out that SEIU "has no bargaining units" in Brazil, meaning that it is outsourcing dues money overseas—a practice the union condemns when private businesses engage in it, according to Berman.
"Employees earning three-figure paychecks would surely appreciate an explanation for the six-figure sums of money their union is sending to a Brazilian law firm," he said.
The SEIU spent at least $20 million on the Fight for $15 movement and related worker organizing committees in 2014. The movement is ostensibly about boosting the minimum wage in franchise restaurants to $15 per hour, but the union has also expressed interest in unionizing large chain restaurants responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The large contributions to PAA indicates that the union is more aggressively pursuing McDonalds overseas operations; the $328,000 it gave PAA in 2014 alone nearly matched the $389,000 it gave the firm from 2009 to 2013.
"SEIU has begun an expensive harassment campaign against Arcos Dorados—the largest McDonald’s franchise in Brazil. The SEIU’s pension funds (CtW Investment Group) which own stock in Arcos are calling for the company to be taken off the stock exchange," the report says.
The PAA-led campaign against Arcos Dorados has caught on in Brazil. The nation’s senate plans on holding hearings over the next year to evaluate labor practices at the overseas McDonalds operations, according to Think Progress. Its national labor arbiter could impose severe penalties if it sides with complaints brought by workers.
"The Brazilian attack on McDonald’s/Arcos Dorados is a sideshow to the main event of the corporate campaign to unionize fast food. But it shows that SEIU will go to essentially the ends of the Earth in the pursuit of more compulsory union members and their money," the report says.
The Brazilian tactics mirror those SEIU and Obama administration regulators are using in the United States. McDonalds is facing dozens of charges before the NLRB, despite the fact that its franchisees were responsible for the alleged violation. On May 19, the union petitioned the Fair Trade Commission to investigate the corporation.
Matthew Haller, spokesman for the International Franchise Association, said the overseas contributions demonstrates that SEIU is attempting to open a two-front war against McDonalds to bring it to the negotiating table.
"SEIU going global with its scorched earth tactics against franchise owners and the brands from which they license their trademarks is right out of its corporate campaign playbook to pressure employers to the bargaining table and force employees to unionize," he said. "Paying front groups or law firms to bring meritless charges based on rhetoric rather than reality only further discredits SEIU’s ongoing attack on franchising and McDonald’s specifically."