Unionization in the food sector means giving workers a voice that will ensure the integrity of what ends up on our dinner plates. But our country has never seen a union for the fast-food industry. We may soon witness history, after employees of 10 Minneapolis Jimmy John’s sandwich shops vote on the issue Friday.
Fast-food workers tend to be young with high turnover, making it difficult to unionize them. But employees have had enough. From NYT:
“The issues that have roused the Jimmy John’s workers are typical of what many low-end service-sector workers face: earning the $7.25-an-hour minimum wage or slightly above that, working unpredictable and often short shifts and dealing with their bosses’ wrath when they call in sick.”
Not only will improved conditions lead to happier staff who care more about their work, but giving them leave when they are sick is an absolute necessity to ensure the health of customers, let alone the employees. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United study revealed “63% [of restaurant workers] reported preparing, cooking, and serving food while sick.” That number is way too high, given the possible link between foodborne-illness outbreaks and ill food handlers.
Although past attempts to unionize these types of workers (like Starbucks baristas) have been ineffective, some changes are definitely in order. Despite other qualms that may arise regarding fast food, it’s important that employees have a say about what’s going on behind the counter.
Sarah Damian is Communications Manager for the Food Integrity Campaign.