Article about the IWW from union-busting law firm, Seyfarth Shaw LLP.
3. IWW’s Union Organizing Campaign against Jimmy John’s: The End or a Beginning for More Fast Food and Restaurant Organizing?
Many restaurant employers, in particular owners of fast-food restaurants, rarely think about the possibility of unionization these days. While the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is using rulemaking and case precedent to make it easier for employees to organize, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) legislation is basically dead. UNITE HERE, the big player in the restaurant arena, is coming off of a difficult divorce between warring factions, is mired in never-ending hotel negotiations, and seems more focused on organizing larger locations pursuant to neutrality/card check agreements. The percentage of the workforce that is unionized in the private sector is at an all-time low, and while the number of representation petitions against restaurants has increased in the past few years, the numbers are still extremely low in any given year. That being said, fast food restaurant owners and operators should take heed of the recent organizing campaign in Minneapolis against ten Jimmy John’s locations. The Wobblies are at it again.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), also known as the Wobblies, a union you may have read about in history class, has never gone away. In 2004, they started organizing baristas at Starbucks, created the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, and have had run-ins with Starbucks at locations in places such as New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis, Grand Rapids, Maryland, and even Omaha. The Wobblies have filed representation petitions and do represent employees in bargaining units in other industries, but usually claim that, because the election system is flawed, they prefer a solidarity unionism model in order to represent its members.
What is “solidarity unionism?” The IWW defines it as a model of labor organizing in which the workers themselves formulate strategy and take action against the company directly without mediation from government or paid union representatives. That is certainly part of it, but based on the IWW’s writings, their approach is much broader. Most notably, the Wobblies are in favor of actively practicing minority unionism and addressing issues from a broader, more global perspective. They see solidarity as drawing the boundary of the “struggle” of the working class as widely as possible. Moreover, the IWW is not a fan of the National Labor Relations Act, traditional organizing or bargaining. They do not care for traditional collective bargaining agreements because they purportedly cede too much power to employers in the form of no-strike provisions and management rights clauses.
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