Jimmy Johns workers organizing over pay, working conditions


The TV commercial for sandwich maker Jimmy Johns features the tagline: “Call Jimmy Johns!” On Labor Day, Jimmy Johns workers in Minneapolis announced they’re making a call of a different sort – for a union. Supporters of the Jimmy Johns Workers Union in 32 states are taking to the streets in an unprecedented National Week of Action to pressure Minneapolis franchise owner MikLin enterprises to meet with their workers, the union announced.

In Minneapolis, union members and supporters rallied at the University of Minnesota for a performance by local hip-hop stars I Self Divine and Guante, followed by a march on two area stores.

hip hop artists
Hip hop artists performed at the rally Monday (above), then participants picketed outside a Minneapolis Jimmy Johns sandwich shop.

Photos by Deborah Rosenstein

union rally outside Jimmy Johns

The Minneapolis Jimmy Johns Workers Union, the first chapter in the country, is riding high on the momentum of several days of successful demonstrations and pickets in Minneapolis with crowds in the hundreds.

The union said actions will intensify as long as owner Mike Mulligan and General Manager Rob Mulligan refuse to meet with the union.

“The Mulligans need to know that we aren’t just hard-working employees, but students and parents; real people with real concerns. These are our lives. We’re tired of being ignored and degraded at job after low-wage job. We’re tired of being expendable,” said Jake Foucalt, a union member in Minneapolis. “The pressure will continue to build until we are listened to.”

The national corporate headquarters of Jimmy Johns has yet to respond to the unionization campaign, the first at the expanding sandwich empire.

The union effort could have profound implications for other employers in the fast food industry, a sector known for the lowest rate 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 nationwide unionization rate of 12.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A person working 40 hours a week on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would make $15,080 per year, just $510 above the official poverty line for a family of two.

The demands of the Jimmy Johns Workers Union include 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.

The Jimmy Johns Workers Union, open to employees at the company nationwide, is the first fast food union in the nation, and 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.

For more information
Learn more about the Jimmy Johns campaign
Learn more about the Industrial Workers of the World

More media coverage of the Jimmy Johns campaign
KFAI radio