Jimmy John's workers launch unionizing effort

Workers at Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches, upset over wages and benefits, launched a union organizing drive Thursday at nine Minneapolis locations.

Organizer David Boehnke said workers will ask to speak with the franchise's owners at a protest in front of a downtown Minneapolis Jimmy John's Thursday afternoon.

Boehnke said he's worked part-time at a Minneapolis Jimmy John's for over a year and makes $7.55 an hour. He said managers will often schedule workers for inconvenient two or three-hour shifts, and that the employer doesn't provide paid sick days to non-managerial workers.

"We have to find a substitute or we have to come in sick," he said. "If you're puking, you get sent home because health codes cover that, but otherwise, that's what happens."

The owners of the local franchises and a company spokesperson did not immediately return calls for comment.

Boehnke, 24, said the organizing drive will likely be unconventional. Several of the workers are already members of the International Workers of the World - an international union founded by progressives, anarchists and socialists over a century ago.

The union has experienced a resurgence in recent years, fueled in part by activists interested in radical history. In the Twin Cities, IWW members have also tried to unionize Starbucks workers.

Boehnke said he's not sure whether organizers will file for an official union election, or if they will try to get their demands met through protests and informal meetings with management.

"Right now, we're asking for a meeting with the owner," he said. "We're asking that they sit down and negotiate with us and recognize that we exist. That's all we're asking."

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.