News Story

The 'Astroturf' Campaign to Force Employers to Give Paid Sick Time

Media claims its a 'statewide coalition'

Even its own website makes unclear who runs a Grand Rapids entity calling itself “Our Kitchen Table,” but the statewide news conglomerate MLive elevated the obscure nonprofit into part of a “statewide coalition” in a story about a campaign to mandate that job providers give employees paid leave for sickness and other reasons.

Our Kitchen Table has no financial or organizational paperwork on record, according to, a website that tracks forms filed with the IRS by 1.8 million nonprofit groups. The address the organization filed with the IRS is a single-family residence. Its website doesn’t list the names of any employees or staff members. It does state that its offices are located in a neighborhood association lodge, which association members can rent out for events like birthday parties.

Nevertheless, Our Kitchen Table is one of several obscure organizations listed in media reports as backers of recently introduced paid-leave requirements.

Of the seven organizations named as part of the “statewide coalition,” three are obscure organizations based out of Royal Oak and three others are located in Detroit. All the organizations appear to have just a handful of employees, and some appear to have just one staff member, based on information from the organizations’ websites.

The Flint News editor Bryn Mickle responded in an email, “The Flint Journal always strives for accurate and balanced reporting. We stand by our story.”

Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the campaign in favor of paid sick leave was trying to mask its real sponsors – something commonly known as “astroturfing.”

“Despite the advocates efforts to give the illusion of a 'homegrown, grass roots movement', the fact is that this is a national movement backed by big labor organizations,” Owens said. “We have reports of a very organized and unified effort in many states following the same tactics, including a federal push.”

Here’s a look at organizations, other than Our Kitchen Table, that are members of the “statewide coalition,” with information obtained from the organizations’ websites and Guidestar.

Mothering Justice

Mothering Justice’s website doesn’t list any contact information, officers, or employees. Under “About Us” on the website, it states, "Coming Soon." The MLive article listed Danielle Atkinson as the organization's director. Atkinson lives in Royal Oak, which happens to be the location of two of the other organizations listed in the MLive article.

Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan

Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan lists one staffer on its website, Dessa Cosma-King, who also serves as the co-director of another organization called the Michigan Center for Progressive Leadership. The two other staff members are only identified as titles with the Michigan Center for Progressive Leadership. The Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan lists its address at 104 W. Fourth St., Suite 306, Royal Oak. That address is listed on a Royal Oak website as the office of the Center for Progressive Leadership.

Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network

The Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network lists two employees on its website, which it states was designed by the director. It says it is a nonprofit based out of Royal Oak. Guidestar has no information on it other than it is registered with the IRS. The address filed with the IRS, to which the network directs people to send donations, is listed on real-estate websites as a single-family residence.

Building Movement Project Detroit People's Platform

Building Movement Project Detroit People’s Platform appears to be the Michigan chapter of the New York-based Building Movement Project. Linda Campbell is listed as the only Michigan staff member on the Building Movement Project website.

Michigan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength

The Michigan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength is a nonprofit based in Detroit. Its latest 990 Form on file with Guidestar is from 2009, with a posted revenue of $464,720. Many nonprofits have already filed 2013 reports with Guidestar. Its website lists seven staff members.

ROC Michigan

Restaurant Opportunities Center United is a national organization out of New York. There is a Michigan chapter and the website lists six staff members. It's located in Detroit.


Who is Behind the Minimum Wage Increase Drive?

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.