Minn. Jimmy Johns workers unionize

September 20, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS--Members of the newly founded Jimmy Johns Workers Union made history when they filed for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union election.

The move by workers at Minneapolis locations is the first of its kind for Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches, a national fast-food chain, and is only the latest in a number of actions that have at times brought business at certain Minneapolis locations to a near-halt.

The new union is an affiliate of Industrial Workers of the World, the century-old union known most recently for successfully organizing Starbucks barristas.

Local Jimmy Johns workers announced the formation of their union at the beginning of September and have since made multiple requests to meet with Minneapolis franchise owners Mike and Rob Mulligan of Miklin Enterprises Inc., all of which have been ignored. A successful NLRB election will legally require the Miklins to meet with the workers' elected negotiating team.

The union first announced its existence at the beginning of September by staging a walkout at nine locations, demanding "pay above the minimum wage, regular scheduling and minimum shift lengths, regularly scheduled breaks, sick days, no-nonsense workers compensation for job-related injuries, an end to sexual harassment at work, and basic fairness on the job."

Currently, in the Mulligan's franchises, workers make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and receive no benefits. There are no non-management, full-time positions available, and managers are discouraged from giving workers more than 20 hours a week.

It is not unheard of for Jimmy Johns employees to be asked to come in for one-hour shifts, meaning that they could conceivably spend almost half of their after-taxes wages for the day on the bus fare they pay to get to work.

The refusal of the Mulligans to meet with union negotiators and the complete silence of Jimmy Johns corporate headquarters, prompted a call by the union for a national week of action, with actions in 32 states, culminating in a rally and concert in Minneapolis on Labor Day. The week of action was successful in bringing media attention to the unionization effort and spreading to word to franchises in other states.

Jake Foucault, a union member at Jimmy Johns quoted in a union press release, said, "The Mulligans need to know that we aren't just hard-working employees, but students and parents; real people with real concerns. These are our lives. We're tired of being ignored and degraded at job after low-wage job. We're tired of being expendable. The pressure will continue to build until we are listened to."

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