Uh Oh: Labor Union's Minimum Wage Fight Hamstrung By Sexual Harassment Claims

Posted: Oct 26, 2017 2:25 PM

The news was already bad for the pro-minimum wage hike crowd. Study after study showed that this was just bad social policy. It hurt workers, cutting their hours and reducing their job opportunities. The $15/hour crusade has only detrimentally impacted workers—and this is the same result from across the country. In Maryland, Montgomery County found that a $15/hour hike could kill 47,000 jobs by 2022. In New York, 1,000 restaurants have closed their doors. In Seattle, their minimum wage hike screwed over workers as well. That study was the subject of some controversy as the University of Washington, which conducted the study was pre-empted by a competing analysis by UC Berkeley. You see the University of Washington report was just too unflattering for the city council to stomach, so they shopped over to the progressive cesspool at Berkeley.

It’s not hard: minimum wage hikes hurt the economy and they hurt workers even more. USA Today’s editorial board said people should tread carefully with these policy initiatives, citing Seattle as an example of where its results have been lackluster at best. And speaking of lackluster, no one really cares about $15/hour minimum wage, as protests have dropped precipitously. Why? Union workers, who filled the ranks at these gatherings, don’t care.

Well, now, this Fight for $15 crew has another obstacle: their organizers being pinched for sexual harassment and other forms of abuse (via BuzzFeed):

The powerful Service Employees International Union is cleaning house amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of misconduct and abusive behavior among leaders of the campaign to increase the minimum wage.

The union fired the top leader of its Fight for 15 campaign in Chicago, Caleb Jennings, as a result of the ongoing investigation, BuzzFeed News has learned, and placed the head of the campaign’s Detroit outpost, Mark Raleigh, on administrative leave.

The investigation is looking “into questions about potential violations of our union’s anti-nepotism policy, efforts to evade our Code of Ethics and subsequent complaints related to sexual misconduct and abusive behavior towards union staff,” International President Mary Kay Henry wrote to staff on Monday.


The SEIU represents a majority-female service workforce, largely made up of immigrant women and women of color, with a stated goal of bringing about more equitable working conditions, including freedom from sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.

But more than a dozen current and former staffers interviewed by BuzzFeed News said complaints about top-level staff on the Fight for 15 campaign, including Executive Vice President Scott Courtney, were an open secret, and that complaints about abusive and aggressive behavior by some organizers who reported to Courtney led to no action. Courtney resigned amid the investigation on Monday.

In June of 2016, more than 50 union staffers signed a letter addressed to two current and one former president of local SEIU chapters, calling for the removal of Jennings, the Chicago organizing coordinator, saying he allegedly assaulted 28-year-old female staffer Gönül Düzer. Düzer was subsequently fired.

In the letter, reviewed by BuzzFeed News, the staffers describe an incident in which Jennings “became violent, ripping [Düzer’s] work phone out of her hands and subsequently shoving her against a door frame.”


Courtney, who resigned following complaints about his relationships with female staffers and allegations of sexual harassment, had spearheaded the Fight for 15’s international pressure campaign against McDonald’s — testifying before the Brazilian senate on labor conditions and supporting challenges to the global employer's growing monopoly in China.

Well, it seems the whippings will continue until morale improves at the SEIU.