The “Fight For $15” movement blazed its way across America and in headlines, calling for a $15 minimum wage. However, these protests appear to be burning out in 2017, according to a new report.
The movement, which was largely funded and supported by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), held protests in only 30 cities in 2017, a steep drop from 640 in 2016, according to the Employment Policy Institute (EPI), a pro-market think tank. At this pace, there would be ten times fewer cities having protests, a more than 90 percent drop.
EPI managing director Michael Saltsman said that the decreased number of strikes were most likely a result of SEIU’s 30 percent budget cuts announced after the 2016 election.
Records show SEIU, the country’s second largest union, spent over $90 million on the the Fight for $15 since 2012. But “although it won a few policy victories, it didn’t provide substantial new unionization benefits,” Saltsman said.
Critics of the Fight for $15 movement compare the drop in protests to the United Food and Commercial Workers union’s (UFCW) pulling funding to unionize Walmart in 2015.
Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts, said that in both cases, employees were not interested.
“The SEIU’s Fight for $15 campaign fell on deaf ears,” Berman said. “Much like the ‘Our Walmart’ disaster, there were few protesters beyond the ones paid to make noise. Employees are telling union leadership to focus on collective bargaining instead of expensive PR campaigns funded by member dues.”
Despite increased spending, SEIU membership has dropped from 1,921,786 to 1,901,161 since they raised the Fight for $15. While the movement has influenced policy change in New York, Washington, the District of Columbia, it failed to unionize the fast food industry.
Matt Haller, a spokesperson for International Franchise Association, said that the campaign was “virtually worthless” to workers because of better working opportunities.
“When you try to sell something that people aren’t buying, you tend to go out of business pretty quickly. That’s the problem the Fight for $15 is having,” Haller told Red Alert Politics. [SEIU has] spent $80 million developing a product that’s virtually worthless to entry level workers, particularly with a now improving labor market, where employers are competing for the best employees and wages are going up.
The Fight For $15 has also suffered from several negative studies in the past year.
Researchers from the University of Washington found in June that the higher minimum wage cost low-income employees’ incomes to drop by $125 per week. In August, another study found that a $15 wage would cost Montgomery County, Maryland 45,000 jobs.
“The Democratic mayor vetoed the $15 wage bill in Baltimore. There have been studies in cities that have embraced this policy that there have been pretty clear consequences to the job market,” Saltsman said. “When you see those kind of consequences, it’s tough to not lose momentum.”
“I think this experiment is going to prompt a pretty serious reconsideration of what the benefits and drawbacks are of raising the minimum wage,” Saltsman said.