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

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”

  3. 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 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?
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