What would a fast-food union give to workers across the country? A voice, for the first time in history.
Just a few weeks ago, employees of ten Minneapolis Jimmy John’s sandwich shops submitted a demand of union recognition by local fast-food chain owners to the local office of the National Labor Relations Board, which if successful, would be the first fast-food union in U.S. history.
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With wages starting at just $7.25 an hour, fast-food employees are rarely offered health benefits or sick days – most are unable to miss work without documentation from a doctor, unachievable for some on such short notice because of a lack of health insurance. Instead, they work while they’re sick, a very disconcerting thought when looked at from the aspect of a customer. “If someone’s that sick, we try to keep them on the register and away from the sandwiches, but still, it’s not how you want to be working,” one employee told Minneapolis’ CityPages. Not a comforting thought as we enter flu season, is it?
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Fast-food chain owners against the possibility of a worker’s union cite an inability to remain competitive if forced to comply, a confession of the dirt-cheap labor that keeps most of these eateries afloat, and one labor expert explained that the powerful corporate chains will likley fight to keep the union from manifesting. “If these guys are seen to succeed, it could really light a fire, because the dissatisfaction is unquestionable,” labor historian Peter Rachleff told CityPages. “The corporation knows that, and they have a lot of resources … plenty of lawyers.”