Jimmy John’s Workers Win NLRB Ruling Negating Tight Election
By Kari Lydersen
In These Times
The campaign to unionize workers at Jimmy John’s sandwich shop in Minneapolis seemed to be heading toward victory last fall, with workers, students, customers and other supporters nationwide enthused about the possibility of the country’s first unionized fast food franchise.
Thanks to the company’s signature “attitude” and promise of “freakishly” fast service, people were hardly surprised to hear Jimmy John’s workers are forced to work unrealistically fast for low pay on arbitrary schedules with few benefits, like other fast food workers frequently going to work ill because they lack paid sick days.
Workers chose the legendary Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union and fought hard to obtain a union election, held on October 22. It was a nail-biter, where workers ultimately voted against unionizing by 87-85. Union supporters claimed franchise owners Mike and Rob Mulligan played dirty, as an IWW newsletter puts it, "resorting to unlawful tactics including threatening a wage freeze, intentionally fabricating rumors that the union engaged in sabotage, retaliating against union supporters, and numerous other labor rights violations."
On January 10, the National Labor Relations Board sided with the pro-union workers, nullifying the election.
The decision means that after 60 days the union can file for a new election, with a condensed campaign period of 30 days, instead of the usual 42 days. Pro-union workers say a new election is possible, but first they want to give the owners a chance to voluntarily come to the table and discuss workers’ 10 Point Program for Justice at Jimmy Johns, described as “a comprehensive package of reforms that will bring respect, dignity, and democracy to the fast food workplace.”
The program calls for specific provisions organized around 10 core values, with the requests reflecting common complaints at Jimmy John’s. The demands include: time-and-a-half pay for hours worked between midnight and 6 a.m. and for bike delivery hours in inclement weather, free uniforms, one paid sick day a month, paid maternity and paternity leave, the guarantee of working a full shift, a half-hour lunch break for shifts of six hours or more and the offer of health and dental insurance.
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