Monday, July 06, 2015

Obama admin promotes union fight for fast-food dues

By Jason Hart |

Service Employees International Union wants to take dues from fast-food workers, and the Obama administration wants to help.

Mary Beth Maxwell, principal deputy assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Department of Labor, praised SEIU’s “Fight for $15″ unionization campaign in a June entry on the labor department’s website.

Fast-food workers, Maxwell wrote, “are showing that coming together to form unions is still how workers can raise their voices.”

“Although it is unclear yet what protection the law affords them, as long as they have the courage that comes from acting together, they’re willing to take risks every day to build a better future for their families,” Maxwell added.

Encouraging words, no doubt, from one of the nation’s top labor officials. And not unexpected, given Maxwell’s background.

Before joining the Obama administration, Maxwell was executive director at union front group American Rights at Work. Before that, Maxwell was a national field director for union front Jobs With Justice.

SEIU and other labor unions sank $25.9 million into American Rights at Work from 2005-13, based on unions’ annual financial disclosures. Of that total, $10.4 million was donated around the time Maxwell was appointed to the Department of Labor.

After Maxwell’s departure, American Rights at Work was folded into Jobs With Justice — one of several union-advocacy groups leading SEIU’s current Fight for $15 campaign.

In her June labor department blog post, Maxwell focused on St. Louis fast-food worker Terrance Wise, “one of an incredible group of leaders that are building their union and leading the fight for higher wages.”

What she didn’t mention: Fight for $15 has been orchestrated by SEIU, whose public relations firm shops quotes from Wise to media outlets covering the union organizing campaign.

Wise has been cited by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, USA Today and other national publications as a grassroots leader of the $15 minimum wage movement.

In March, Wise served as an international spokesman for the “fight for $15 and a union,” addressing Ireland’s Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union in a video recorded by SIPTU’s International Solidarity Committee.

Wise is a leader of Stand Up KC, a project of Midwest Center for Equality and Democracy. SEIU has funneled more than $400,000 to Midwest Center for Equality and Democracy through SEIU front group St. Louis Organizing Committee.

RELATED: Union organizing machine targets St. Louis, Kansas City

Nationally, Fight for $15 and partner groups have received tens of millions from SEIU. Even the union-funded leftist magazine In These Times has expressed concern about the degree of SEIU’s control over the campaign.

Maxwell did not respond to a request for comment.

Her story noted Fight for $15 has the support of President Obama, who appointed Maxwell to her $164,000-a-year job shortly after taking office.

“If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union,” the president said during a 2014 Labor Day speech in front of a union crowd.

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