Monday, October 25, 2010

Near Tie In Jimmy John's Union Election

After the votes were counted in Friday's union election at 10 Minneapolis Jimmy John's franchise locations, the tally was 85 workers for the union, 87 against, and two unknown contested ballots. Even if both contested ballots had gone for the union, under the National Labor Relations Act, a tie goes to the employer. (Surprise.)

This means that the franchise company, MikLin Enterprises, is not legally bound to recognize and negotiate with the union. It does not mean that there is no union or that workers cannot act in solidarity and fight for decent wages and better working conditions.

Although the vote results are disappointing, this organizing campaign is pretty impressive when put in perspective. Across 10 store locations, roughly half of all the workers voted to join the Industrial Workers of the World. 85 people wanted to be officially recognized as Wobblies. And remember this vote comes after all the usual (and effective) pre-vote tactics from the bosses--bribes, coercion, threats of firing, forced anti-union lecture sessions. In fact, the union is charging MikLin Enterprises with 22 violations of the National Labor Relations Act. So the fight goes on.

Some more perspective: MikLin, like virtually any corporation facing workers who are organizing for their own good, hired a third-party anti-union "consulting" firm called Labor Relations, Inc. Among the services provided by Labor Relations, Inc. are captive audience meetings, where the firm details the horrors of unionization to the workers, who are required to attend these meetings. It's estimated that MikLin paid $84,500 to fight off the union drive. In other words, it cost them almost $1,000 for each "no" vote they got. It would be interesting to that compared with an estimate of the union's expenses. Perhaps $5 per yes vote?

I will be watching to see what the union does next. They've gotten national attention. They've built a group of supporters around the country. And they've inspired other fast-food and low-wage workers. I think we'll be hearing more from the Jimmy John's workers.


Jenni said...

$1,000K per no vote, makes me sick that they spend that kind of money to thwart their workers efforts to organize. That money could have gone to their actual employees, you know?

Did you hear that Wegmans has/is opening a store in Lanham, MD? My husband's cousin worked for them in VA and told me that they regularly held captive audience showed them videos depicting union violence, and there was not even an active campaign at that particular store.

Jenni said...

That's captive audience meetings.

Dave said...

Wow, propaganda sessions before any organizing even happens? That's taking it to the next level.

You're right, the money and energy they put into that stuff could go to raises instead. (But you'd probably get fired for talking like that!)