Jimmy John’s Workers Vote to Organize Union

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As I write this post, votes are being counted in what is considered a historic election for fast-food workers across the country.

The employees of 10 Twin Cities Jimmy John’s sandwich shops will decide if they want a union to bargain for better pay and working conditions. Earlier this fall, 60 percent of the Jimmy John’s workers voted to push the matter to an official ballot to decide if they want union representation. If the voters decide to organize a union, the election could make these workers among the first in the country to give the minimum wage, part-time workers, the collective power to bargain with management.

Experts have noted that even if the union is voted upon, it doesn’t mean that the workers will be able to negotiate higher wages or better working conditions with management. However, it is still an important first step for many minimum-wage service workers across the country who now realize that they too can influence their working lives.

The workers voted under the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law that was passed by Congress in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices. In 2009, the union membership — the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union — was 12.3%.  Of those numbers, more public sector employees (7.9 million belonged to a union than did private sector employees (7.4 million), despite their being 5 times more wage and salary workers in the private sector.

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