On Labor Day, Jimmy John's Faces Coast to Coast Actions in Support of Nation's First-Ever Fast Food Union
Momentum Builds as Workers Seek Relief for Mounting Economic Frustration
September 7, 2010
MINNEAPOLIS- From Clovis, California to Miami, Florida, Jimmy John's was besieged coast to coast on Labor Day by leafleting and pickets in support of the first-ever unionization effort at the national sandwich chain. The emergent IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union is coordinating a National Week of Action against the company to reach out to workers and pressure Minneapolis franchise owners to meet with their employees, who moved to unionize on Thursday. Over the course of the week, actions are planned in 32 of 39 states in which the company operates.
“Working conditions are terrible- poverty wages, being forced to work while sick, inconsistent hours, management favoritism, the list goes on. We formed a union to fight for change, starting at Jimmy Johns today, and throughout the entire fast food industry tomorrow. These nationally-coordinated actions have shown company owner Jimmy John Liautaud that if he doesn't clean up his act, we'll take a bite out of his business,” said David Boehnke, a union member at Jimmy Johns.
The national corporate headquarters of Jimmy Johns has yet to respond to the unionization campaign, the first at the expanding sandwich empire. The union effort could have profound implications for other employers in the fast food industry, a sector known for the lowest rate of unionization– and lowest wages– in the United Sates. Only 1.8% of food service workers were represented by a union in 2009, far below the nation-wide figure of 12.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The fast food workers' move to unionize is emblematic of mounting frustration amongst US workers with the sluggish pace of recovery from the Recession. With unemployment rates hovering around 9.5%, many workers view low wage service jobs as their only option. Employment in the food service industry is expected to grow 8.4% from 2008 to 2018, higher than the 7.7% rate predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all industries. Wages and working conditions in the fast food industry are widely regarded as substandard; in 2009, about 17% of food workers earned at or below $5.15 an hour after taxes, the highest percentage of any occupational group.
The demands of the Jimmy Johns workers include a pay increase to above minimum wage, consistent 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.
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.