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.