Saturday, October 23, 2010


Close but no cigar. The Jimmy Johns Workers' Union in Minneapolis lost the Labour Board election that would have seen them representing workers in the 10 outlets in that city. the final tally was 85 in favour of the union and 87 against. US labour law says that a majority of those eligible to vote would have to vote yes to certify a union as the bargaining representative. In this case that would have meant 103 workers.

The IWW isn't giving up, and hopefully future efforts will be rewarded. The reader can see more and keep up to date on developments at both the Jimmy Johns Workers' Union site and also that of the Twin Cities IWW. Management fought a dirty campaign against the union, and there are quite a few unfair labour practices complaints in the works. As the following article from Business Week shows, red-baiting was part of their book of tricks. Nothing remarkable about this. What is remarkable, and it bodes well for the health of the American body politic, is that almost half the workers involved were unimpressed by scare words like "socialist-anarchist".
Union’s Bid to Organize Minneapolis Sandwich Shops Rejected
October 23, 2010, 12:01 AM EDT
Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Union efforts to recruit workers at U.S. fast-food restaurants were set back yesterday as Minneapolis employees at Jimmy John’s sandwich shops rejected a bid to affiliate with organized labor.

The Industrial Workers of the World, a Chicago-based group, failed to win enough votes at 10 shops where the union’s supporters complained of low wages and too few working hours. A tally showed 87 workers against the union and 85 in favor, with 103 votes, a majority of those eligible, needed to win, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The parties have seven days to file objections.

“We make minimum wage, and if the companies could pay us less, I’m sure they would,” said Ayo Collins, 20, who delivers sandwiches and is a union organizer at Jimmy John’s, a Champaign, Illinois-based chain with 1,000 U.S. shops. “We don’t have health care either.”

Success at Jimmy John’s would have been a breakthrough for organized labor in the fast-food business, where 1.3 percent of workers belong to a union and organizing is difficult because of rapid turnover and a young workforce, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The drive signals that working conditions are “perhaps a real social problem that requires a more pressing solution,” he said.

Mike Mulligan, who owns the 10 franchises in Minneapolis that were targeted in the campaign, said he has been “more than fair” to his workers. He said the workers include a high percentage of minority employees and he has “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment. Most employees have been with the company for less than six months, and are paid minimum wage of $7.25-an- hour, he said.

Socialist Wobblies

The I.W.W., known as the Wobblies, has 1,600 U.S. members and few union contracts with employers. The socialist union ( "socialist" is a fair description, but it should be stressed that this doesn't imply any support for any electoral socialist party ie "small s" socialist- Molly )says on its website that there can be “no end to injustice and want until the profit system itself is abolished.” The union has tried in the past to organize baristas at Starbucks Corp.

Employees at two Jimmy John’s in downtown Chicago, which wasn’t part of the I.W.W. organizing, said yesterday that pay is low and hours are inadequate.

“Three hours Monday through Friday isn’t enough,” said Julian Western, 20, who said he makes $8.25 an hour at the Jimmy John’s at 2 N. Riverside Plaza and works side jobs to supplement his income. “You need a second job just to get enough to get by, pay bills.”

Western and his friend Susana Contreras, 20, a cashier and baker at a nearby Jimmy John’s, said they hadn’t heard of the effort in Minneapolis. He said the Wobblies would succeed if they tried to organize in Chicago.

Hours, Pay

“A lot of people are complaining about the hours and pay,” said Western, who works the cash register and hands out sandwiches. “They’d be more than happy to cooperate.”

Mulligan, a retired senior vice president with grocer Supervalu Inc., said he met frequently with workers in the past six weeks to combat the union effort. He told workers the I.W.W. is a “socialist-anarchist” group, and that the union wouldn’t be likely to improve their working conditions.

“They’re trying to take down the quick-service industry,” said Mulligan, who became a franchisee after he leaving Supervalu as a way of going into business with his son. “Our employees don’t deserve these people, and these people don’t deserve our employees.”

Robert Bruno, director of the labor education program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said it’s significant for labor unions to target fast-food workers as potential union members.

“Some of the traditional rationales against unions in the industry -- that the workers are too young, they don’t stay on the job -- isn’t true any longer,” Bruno said. “Something has changed in the economy. It signals that you can’t take these workers for granted.”

--Editors: Steve Geimann, Larry Liebert

To contact the reporters on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at; Flynn McRoberts in Chicago at .

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at .
Here's how the Jimmy Johns Workers' Union themselves see the matter.
Unfazed by near tie, Jimmy John’s Workers vow to continue campaign
by Twin Cities Iww on Friday, October 22, 2010 at 8:14pm.
Jimmy Johns Workers Union (Industrial Workers of the World) Contact: Erik Forman, 612-598-6205, Ayo Collins 612-281-0882

October 22, 2010

Unfazed by near tie, Jimmy John’s Workers vow to continue campaign
Workers report widespread illegal activity by company
MINNEAPOLIS – Workers at 10 Jimmy John’s franchise locations in Minneapolis are crying foul after a near tie in a union certification election marred by misconduct by owner MikLin enterprises. 85 workers voted in favor of unionization and 87 against, with two unknown contested ballots. Under the National Labor Relations Act, a tie goes to the employer.

Workers reported strong evidence of several violations of the National Labor Relations Act on and before election day, including attempted bribes of workers, management asking workers to wear anti-union pins, threats of mass firings, and anti-union firings. MikLin Enterprises currently stands charged with 22 alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

“We are extremely disappointed with the company’s conduct in this matter; rather then letting simply letting us vote, management chose to break the law repeatedly during the last six weeks. They spent over $84,500 on a vicious anti-union smear campaign, that's over $1000 per vote. We do not recognize these election results as legitimate and will continue to fight for our demands,” said Erik Forman, a worker at Jimmy John’s and a union member.

Ayo Collins, a delivery driver, says the union “hasn’t put all their eggs in one basket” and has multiple avenues of action still open to them. He says the union is considering taking legal action against the company over their misconduct in the runup to the election.

"In a company with turnover approaching 50% each month, a majority at any given moment only means so much. We have a mandate- more than 85 of us are committed to continuing the fight for decent wages, consistent scheduling, sick days, and the basic respect and dignity that all workers deserve. This is just the beginning of the fight," said Collins.

The Jimmy Johns Workers Union, open to employees at the company nationwide, is the first fast food union in the nation, and is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people.


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