Fast-food workers aren’t exactly typical candidates for unionization. Sure, the hours are crappy, the wages are worse, and the tough conditions sometimes turn abusive. But many of those toiling in the McDitches are short-timers: students or other young people working short stints. Others are in a job of last resort, unlikely to rock the boat in hopes of some promised payoff down the road.
But that hasn’t stopped workers at 10 Jimmy John’s sandwich shops in Minneapolis from pushing forward with their plan to organize with the National Labor Relations Board.
“Jimmy John’s workers aren’t depending on big union officials to send them teams of professional organizers. They’re allied with the Industrial Workers of the World, a smaller union with a long history and a loose, do-it-yourself approach to organizing. The IWW’s grassroots approach lets it go where bigger, more bureaucratic unions can’t or won’t. Over the last decade, it helped unionize Starbucks workers and got the company to cough up back pay.”
If the Jimmy John’s workers succeed, it will mark one of the first fast-food union organizations in the country’s history. (Eleven Domino’s drivers unionized in 2006 in Pensacola, Florida, but their group—the American Union of Pizza Delivery Drivers—seems to be defunct.)
It may also encourage other fast-food workers to follow suit—and potentially have an adverse impact on Jimmy John’s labor costs. Could fast-food unionization, if it ever comes to pass, simply be a small price to pay for happier employees? Or the first shot in a destructive labor revolt that will leave Americans gasping for their Double Downs? Time will tell.