Fight for $15 Workers Unionize Amid SEIU Changes

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By Jaclyn Diaz

Employees of the labor-backed social justice campaign Fight for $15 have joined a union themselves.

Organizers, communications workers, data specialists, and other office workers joined the United Media Guild, Shannon Duffy, a representative for UMG confirmed to Bloomberg Law Nov. 30. Fight for $15 is a campaign started by Service Employees International Union aimed at increasing the minimum wage for those who work in the fast-food industry.

The SEIU had separate committees that ran the Fight for $15 campaign, including the UMG-represented Mid-South Organizing Committee. The service union consolidated these groups under the National Fast Food Workers Union, a local of SEIU, in the past couple of months. Now, UMG is aiming to represent all workers involved in Fight for $15, Duffy said.

A card check was held Nov. 29, and a majority of workers signed membership cards in support of the union, Duffy said. So far, the unit consists of 52 members across the nation, but Duffy said that number could change as they are still clarifying who would be included in the bargaining unit.

Fight for $15 workers have been aiming to get a union for some time. Previously, the Union of Union Representatives, which represents other SEIU workers, was working to organize those workers. UUR did not respond immediately for requests for comment.

Bargaining Start Unknown

SEIU said in a statement that the National Fast Food Workers Union voluntarily “recognized UMG as the exclusive bargaining agent of its staff based on a majority showing of interest. The parties look forward to working together in a constructive bargaining relationship based on mutual respect.”

But it’s not yet clear when these two parties will meet at the bargaining table.

Former leaders of SEIU’s Fight for $15 movement have resigned or have otherwise been ousted because of sexual harassment or inappropriate work behavior. It’s not clear who currently leads that division of SEIU.

In October, the SEIU fired Caleb Jennings, who had spearheaded Fight for $15 in Chicago. Kendall Fells, one of the top national leaders of the campaign, left in November, and Executive Vice President Scott Courtney, an architect of the campaign, also departed the union in October.

SEIU did not respond immediately to questions on who will serve as a bargaining representative for National Fast Food Workers Union, who leads the group, or how recently the group was formed.

The workers are spread nationwide, working in offices in Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and Richmond, Va. The staff counts differ by location. At larger locations, there could be six or seven workers, while in smaller cities there can be two or three, according to Duffy.

The staff and SEIU work hard to push the movement on minimum wage forward. The staff are paid well but are looking for improved benefits, Duffy said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jdiaz@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com

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