I recently watched a debate about the fast food workers’ protests that have been taking place around the country.
Advocates on both sides are passionate about their views but there are some things about the so called “workers’ strike” that many may not know.  
On May 15th some fast food workers conducted strikes in over 150 U.S. cities.
Their goal was to demand a raise to $15 per hour and the right to unionize without opposition. Supporters trotted out extreme cases such as Luis Vasquez, a 19 year old Chipotle worker in New York. Vasquez said he earns $9 an hour and is the main source of income for his family who collects food stamps and takes government assistance to “pay the rent.”
He told CNN, “What I am trying to say to companies today is share the profit.”
Jamie Branch, a Rockford, IL McDonalds worker says, “The reason I’m going on strike is because I feel like they are underpaying their workers.
That corporation is making billions of dollars in the same hour they’re paying me eight measly dollars. It’s time for me to start getting acknowledged and treated as if I matter.”
Most of the statements were similar but is it entirely accurate?
Many fast food companies do make a lot of money, but according to a McDonalds’ spokeswoman, about 80% of their restaurants are independently owned and operated by small business owners, as are most fast food restaurants.
Many of these stores operate on razor thin profit margins in order to keep prices low. Many would be forced to close or lay off workers if they had to hike wages very much.
The media has extensively covered these protests and for the most part they are telling a tale of a spontaneous, united, worker-led rebellion.
In reality, very few actual fast food workers participated in any of this.
USA Today reports only “hundreds” of workers went on strike out of the roughly four million employed in the industry. It was widely estimated that less than one out of every 4,000 fast food workers actually went on strike.
If it’s not the workers who are organizing this then who is?
Recently, workers and union leaders from dozens of countries met for the first global meeting of fast-food workers, organized by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations, a federation comprised of 396 trade unions, in 126 countries, representing 12 million workers.
Also, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) hired a communications firm to create a marketing campaign to generate media activity over the strikes.
Why would the SEIU spend millions on a marketing campaign? Easy, to get more dues-paying members.
Three strike organizers in Chicago and two in New York have spoken to the media and said that from the outset it became clear that the SEIU was directing the movement and the goal of the “strikes” was to “organize low-wage or fast food workers.”
The SEIU, however, denied that they were in charge of anything.
If their effort is successful, it will allow them to potentially negotiate collective bargaining agreements, gain thousands of new members, and millions of new dollars.
Clearly inflation has not kept pace with wages and those at the minimum wage end of the spectrum have been hardest hit.
The fast food companies didn’t cause this, however, but they are the target of a massive marketing campaign that is apparently being assisted by the service unions in a not so discreet attempt to get more members.
The fact that these unions would exploit these workers and in turn make it look as though they are saving them from being exploited by greedy corporations is unconscionable.
Many economists have gone on record saying that a pay hike of this magnitude would cause immense economic harm and job losses.
Clearly the SEIU is pushing for a pay raise so they can then siphon off some of that money for themselves. If more members is what they want then union management should sit down with these workers and make their case for organizing.
Someone wiser than me once said, “You make more friends in the open than hiding behind a tree.”