SEIU Paints A Bull's Eye On Fast Food Industry

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It's common for fast food workers in Canada, Germany, France and Australia to be represented by a union. But in America less than 2% of fast food workers are unionized – and most of them work in stores located on college campuses, in hospitals or in government buildings where labor unions are commonplace. Indeed, until very recently, the conventional wisdom among union leadership was that employees working in freestanding fast food restaurants were simply too short-sighted, too transient, or too timid, to be viable targets for union organizing. Accordingly, even though it promises the possibility of hundreds of thousands of new union members, the fast food industry has gone largely ignored by unions. All of that may soon change.

A Fast-Food First

The sandwich makers and delivery drivers at ten Minneapolis Jimmy John's restaurants recently voted in an NLRB-conducted election to determine whether they would be represented by a union. The election could not have been any closer with the vote splitting right down the middle. Ordinarily a tie NLRB vote is considered an employer victory because it does not show that a majority of the voters want union representation. But following the election, the union filed a slew of objections and unfair labor charges against the company, meaning that the election's ultimate validity and its outcome remain in doubt. Moreover, the closeness of this high profile vote is not likely to go unnoticed for it suggests that fast food workers may be a new, untapped market for union organizers.

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