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IWW now organizing Jimmy John’s workers

September 3, 2010

(The following information is from the newly formed Jimmy John’s Workers Union.)

Service was anything but ‘freaky fast’ at Jimmy Johns today as workers walked off the kitchen floor in an unprecedented move to demand improved wages and working conditions at nine Minneapolis franchise locations. Announcing the formation of the IWW Jimmy Johns Workers Union, the workers are seeking 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.

“I have been working at Jimmy Johns for over two years and they still pay me minimum wage and schedule me one-hour shifts,” said Rikki Olsen, a union member at the Block E location. “I’m working my way through school and can barely make ends meet. I’d get another job, but things are just as bad across the service industry. Companies like Jimmy John’s are profitable and growing, they need to provide quality jobs for the community.”

The Minneapolis franchise, owned and operated by Miklin Enterprises, Inc., pays the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr, offers no benefits, and has no full-time positions outside of management. Jimmy Johns corporate website lists $264,270 as the average yearly net profit for operating a franchise. Union members estimate that Rob and Mike Mulligan, owners of Miklin, Inc. made an annual profit of at minimum $2.3 million in the last year alone. The Miklin franchise plans to open four new locations this year at an estimated cost of over $1.2 million.

Jake Foucault, a delivery driver at the Riverside store, said, “ If Mike and Rob Mulligan have the money to open four new stores, then they have the money to pay us more than minimum wage. We hope Rob and Mike do the right thing and come to the negotiating table.”

A negotiating committee of Jimmy Johns workers plans to meet with the Mulligans at the Block E central office of the franchise to begin discussions at 4:00pm today.

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, 25% of workers in the service industry made less than $7.55 an hour, the highest percentage of any occupational group.

The union campaign at Jimmy Johns could hold deep implications for other companies in the fast food industry, a sector known for the lowest rates of unionization- and lowest wages- in the United States. 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 question of unionization of the food and service industries is assuming greater focus as employment in these non-union sectors increases, while manufacturing, the traditional stronghold of unionization, slides further into decline.

The Jimmy Johns Workers Union, open to employees at the company nationwide, 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.

As an act of solidarity, the Grand Rapids branch of the IWW will be holding a Solidarity picket at the Eastown Jimmy Johns, Monday, September 6 (Labor Day) from 12pm-1pm.

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