Photo: AP

Concerned about inequality? Want to help low-income people earn more money? Invest in labor organizing. The return on investment is INCREDIBLE. Want proof?

The Fight For 15 launched six years ago as a campaign calling for a $15 wage and a right to unionize for fast food workers. The campaign spread throughout the nation, and the $15 minimum wage went from pipe dream to reality for workers in many cities—and in industries far beyond fast food. It is the single most successful long-term labor campaign of this century. It is no exaggeration to say that the Fight for 15 is directly responsible for both political victories and PR pressure that have raised wages on citywide, statewide, and companywide levels.

The Fight for 15 has been funded primarily by the SEIU, America’s most politically aggressive union. This strategy is not without controversy; the campaign has been successful at raising wages, but not at producing new union members, and has drawn internal criticism because of that. So has the money been well spent?

The SEIU has reportedly spent around $20 million a year on this campaign, though the number has declined recently. A new report from the National Employment Law Project quantifies just how much extra money has been put in the pockets of working people as a result of wage gains spurred by the Fight for 15 since it began. A few numbers:

  • “Since 2012, 22 million low-wage workers have won $68 billion in annual raises through a combination of state and local minimum wage increases together with action by employers to raise their companies’ minimum pay scales.” Seventy percent of that money “is the result of $15 minimum wage laws that the Fight for $15 won in California, New York, Massachusetts, Flagstaff, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, Montgomery County, the Twin Cities, Seattle, and SeaTac.”
  • By this measure, the Fight for 15 has won 14 times more money for workers than resulted from the last raise in the federal minimum wage, in 2007.
  • Even if we generous assume that the SEIU spent $30 million a year on this campaign for six years, that would mean that the total gains in worker pay were 378 times larger than the money spent.

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This organized labor campaign—a campaign with the explicit goal of raising pay for working people, a campaign that accomplished the very thing that is necessary to turn around the rising economic inequality that is eroding the foundations of our society—has produced, by conservative measures, a 378000% return on investment. Beat that, motherfuckers.

Invest in organizing. Invest in organizing. Invest in organizing.