Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf convened a press conference last month to share some disturbing research findings not unique to her city. Jim Crow-style segregation may have ended in the South, but it’s a major problem today in the break rooms of restaurants, according to the authoritative-sounding study she released.
The data was meant to be shocking, a clear black eye on the business. It was also intended to be nearly untraceable to who was actually throwing the punch.
The research was attributed to research facilities on two campuses of the University of California (Berkeley and Santa Cruz). One, UCal Berkeley’s Food Labor Research Center, is the research arm of the union-backed Restaurant Opportunities Center United.
The facility at UCal Santa Cruz uses what are called “collaborative research methodologies,” which it acknowledges on its own website “have real implications for the integrity of these research endeavors.”
Translation: Objective research isn’t the objective.
The situation is a recent example of how opponents of the restaurant industry, and pro-labor forces in particular, are increasingly bolstering their cause with prestigious-sounding research that shouldn’t pass a stink test.
The studies are Trojan horses that slip labor’s subjective messages into the media and public discourse as objective fact. Recently, for instance, Starbucks drew heat for not changing its scheduling policies as it had promised employees, a gaff brought to light by a research report called The Grind.
The study was compiled by a group named the Fair Workweek Initiative, as press materials readily noted. The Initiative, in turn, is backed by an entity called the Center for Popular Democracy.
It takes digging via the CPD’s website to reveal the group’s principle backer is the AFL-CIO, a group that would love to organize the employees of Starbucks.
The increasing use of research tied to an agenda underscores the classic assessment by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli of lying’s three forms: Lies, damn lies and statistics.