CHICAGO (WLS) -- The SEIU - Services Employees International Union - orchestrated Wednesday's marches in Chicago and across the country. But the price of a protest doesn't come cheap.
The ABC 7 I-Team looked into how protests Chicago and more than 200 other cities are being organized and financed. The minimum wage war requires maximum funding by the nation's fastest growing labor union.
READ: Full SEIU Department of Labor filing
According to federal records, the SEIU has spent nearly as much on its fight for a $15 minimum wage as it did in 2008 when the union spent $28 million helping get Barack Obama elected president.
As low-wage worker protests spread across Chicago, dozens of other big cities and college campuses, the demonstrations culminate a three year plan by SEIU.
For the SEIU, it is a plan that has been elaborate and very expensive, backed largely by the dues that its two million members pay. That plan cost nearly $50 million the past two years.
According to 2014 Labor Department records filed by SEIU officials, the union spent $24 million in that year alone on eight support organizations aimed at increasing wages for fast food and retail workers.
Around $17 million went to minimum wage protest committees in Chicago and several other big cities, and millions of dollars financed public relations contracts to get the word out and put a positive spin on the movement.
A year ago thousands of protesters converged on McDonald's headquarters in west suburban Oakbrook.
Initially, union officials shied away from accusations that they were behind the so-called grass roots protest.
But now, with the success of the movement, the SEIU has embraced the protests and publicly admits putting their money where their mouths are.
Union leaders say the FIGHT FOR 15 is aimed at improving the lives of millions of American workers. Critics say SEIU wants to unionize the fast food industry and gain more dues - paying members. Some have called the protests "street theatre" aimed at ginning up media attention.
SEIU spending millions on minimum wage movement
An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
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