Organizing at Jimmy Johns
This is the third part of a series of concrete examples (Part I – Part II) and very brief summaries of organizations that have some component of direct action and a form of collective bargaining that operate outside the labour relations framework. The following examples are from the IWWs organising efforts in food service. This includes fast food as well as grocery stores in a lot of the examples the IWW actually engaged in innovative organising that broke ground in more high profile campaigns like the well known “Fight for Fifteen” campaigns around raising the minimum wage in the USA.
This is the second part of a series of concrete examples and very brief summaries of organizations that have some component of direct action and a form of collective bargaining that operate outside the labour relations framework. The following are IWW projects that had aspects of Labour Relations Board campaigns to them but were essentially not oriented towards the LRB. You will also notice that these examples are American. One key difference in the American context is the presence of a longer and richer history of what is called “minority unionism” that is unions that seek to build majorities from minorities but are capable of acting as a part of the workforce that doesn’t always represent a majority pro-union group as verified by card check or a board election.
This submission comes to us from an IWW organizer about his organizing that led to his being fired and returned to work. Given that firings are the greatest fear we often encounter in organizing, a detailed account like this is valuable for workers learning to organize. Emmett was organizing in a typical environment we find ourselves in; without a union, organizing only semi-publicly, and trying to move forward without reproducing the errors of business unions. Working without contracts, elections, or the typical management union relation, Emmett’s piece helps show the tensions that come out of our work, and how they were able to turn things around.
By Emmett J. Nolan
Originally Published in the Industrial Worker Issue 1761 December 2013.
Arriving to work, I entered through the break room as usual. There, awaiting me was my manager who immediately said that we needed to talk. He told me not to put away my bag; I couldn’t get ready for my shift like I usually did. I asked him if this was a disciplinary meeting but he did not respond directly to the question. He just said, “We need to talk. This will just take a minute.” While walking through the production floor I greeted co-workers as I usually do and I followed my manager into his office. Seeing that no one else was in the office, I asked, “Is someone from HR [Human Resources] going to be here?” He barked back at me, “This is coming straight from HR.” I then asked him if I could have a co-worker in the meeting with me. He denied this request, responding, “Hmmm, no.”