Media Advisory: Who’s Behind the Curtain of the Fast Food “Strikes”?

  • Publication Date: September 2014

  • Topics: Minimum Wage

Washington, D.C. – The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) is releasing a media advisory ahead of Thursday’s coordinated fast-food “strikes” planned in major cities nationwide. Below, it lists three key background points and often overlooked questions for the media to ask in its reporting on the protests – information that will make stories on the subject more accurate.

The protests are not a “grassroots” effort. They are being stage-managed by BerlinRosen, a New York-based PR firm that’s received over $8 million from labor unions for PR work in just the last two years—roughly 40 percent of which came from the SEIU. View a chart of the funding breakdown here.
The protests are carefully stage-managed and scripted. In past “strikes,” protestors across different places and locations have been observed using the same talking points and anecdotes. One columnist looking to speak with a fast food worker was directed to a PR agent with BerlinRosen. The Associated Press described BerlinRosen’s media playbook:
“In major cities, for example, TV crews and other media are alerted of a time and location the day before a large rally is planned. The crowd will then flood the restaurant, with workers and others speaking before dispersing or moving to another location after about a half hour

“[It] wasn’t clear how many participants were fast-food workers, rather than campaign organizers, supporters or members of the public relations firm that has been coordinating media efforts.”

The promise of “civil disobedience” at Thursday’s protest is a PR stunt. These intentional arrests are a frequent tactic of the SEIU and will be carefully managed by the union. They are being done only for media value. The SEIU and its President Mary Kay Henry orchestrated a similar act of “civil disobedience” at the McDonald’s headquarters this spring. However, a Twitter photo then showed her casually talking with and thanking the local police.

Questions reporters often fail to ask when conducting interviews about the protests:

How many actual employees that work at the restaurant are participating in the protest?
How many paid staffers of the SEIU or other unions are on-site at the protest?
What is the coordinating involvement of the national Service Employees International Union?
Are media handlers directing “strikers” to speak with specific people? Have they been coached or media-trained by a public relations firm? Are they working together with the SEIU or its local affiliates?