Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has signed onto the Service Employees International Union-backed fast food worker movement, as she tacks further to the left in the Democratic primaries.
Clinton called into a SEIU-sponsored fast food workers forum on Sunday to express her support for raising the starting wage at establishments such as McDonald’s to $15 per hour. The SEIU has bussed in demonstrators across the country to participate in strikes outside of McDonald’s locations. Clinton pledged to carry their banner.
"Thank you for marching. … We need you out there," she said, according to Politico. "I want to be your champion. I want to fight with you every day."
Clinton’s embrace of the $15 wage—more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25—could have major consequences for the economy.
President Obama’s proposed $10.10 minimum wage could eliminate 1 million jobs, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. A wage nearly 50 percent higher than that could prove disastrous at the federal level, according to some estimates. The Employment Policies Institute, a free market think tank, found that such a starting wage could shutter more than 20 percent of fast food franchises in New York State alone.
Matthew Haller, spokesman for the International Franchise Association, said that Clinton’s embrace of the SEIU is an endorsement of "paving the way to unionization of the 8.8 million [franchise] workers and crumbling [franchising] a sector of the economy that is outpacing economy-wide growth."
"SEIU doesn't actually want to help fast food workers, they just want to help themselves and their actions speak louder than words as conveyed through hundred-million dollar PR campaigns designed to destroy hundreds of thousands of small businesses," Haller said. "What SEIU doesn't want people to understand is that you need employers before you can have employees. Unfortunately for these workers, the union wants to get rid of the small local franchise business owners who employ the vast majority of potential new members they seek to represent. "
The fast food forum was the second time Clinton had participated in an SEIU event over the past month. The former secretary of state held court before a panel of SEIU daycare workers on May 20 to praise the union’s effort to mandate $15 wages for them.
"When we short-change childcare workers, we short-change kids and America’s future," the Clinton campaign tweeted during the appearance.
"When we short-change childcare workers, we short-change kids and America’s future." –HRC with @SEIU in Chicago pic.twitter.com/k3v7SzpWbP
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 20, 2015
Clinton lost out on the coveted SEIU endorsement in her failed 2008 presidential run. The two-million-member union endorsed President Barack Obama in February 2008 as the candidates geared up for five crucial primaries and caucuses on March 8.
Political observers at the time noted that the endorsement could prove a boon for Obama’s White House run.
"Three groups—women, Latinos, and working-class whites—have tended to vote for Clinton this year. If the SEIU's political muscle helps turn those groups toward Obama, especially in Ohio and Texas, this endorsement could prove decisive," Mother Jones wrote at the time.
Clinton won Ohio convincingly, but Obama rallied in Texas, winning the Texas caucuses while narrowly losing the Texas primary. (The state’s Democrats use both a primary and a caucus.) The union spent $27 million supporting Obama through the primary and general election season.
"SEIU was widely credited for helping elect President Barack Obama in 2008," the union’s website says.
The SEIU has ramped up its political spending even more over the last two election cycles. The union spent nearly $50 million in outside spending and direct contributions in 2012 and $28 million during the 2014 midterms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
SEIU has spent nearly as much on its public campaign against McDonald’s, shelling out more than $20 million on organizing committees and public relations firms that have aided its Fight for $15 protests. Fred Wszolek of the Workforce Fairness Institute said that the $15 starting wage follows the Democrats’ record of passing legislation injurious to small businesses and the economy.
"Americans shouldn’t accept lectures on economic inequality from politicians who jet around the world on private planes collecting quarter million dollar checks for giving speeches," he said. "Democrats wouldn’t listen when business owners warned that the Obamacare mandate would kill the 40 hour workweek, but it surely has. And now they won’t listen when we warn that a $15 an hour minimum wage will kill entry-level jobs, but it surely will."
Haller said that he hopes Clinton will listen to input from small business owners who have benefitted from franchising, rather than politically powerful interest groups like the SEIU.
"As Hillary Clinton travels the country, she'll have an opportunity to meet these local small business owners who make up the great franchising business model on every Main Street in America. The question is, will she actually listen to their concerns too? Doesn't she believe everyone deserves a fair shot to be a franchisee?" he said.
Published under: 2016 Election , Big Labor , Hillary Clinton , Minimum Wage , SEIU , Unions