Monday, July 5, 2010

Organizing In The Retail Sector: Pizza Delivery

When you look at union membership in the retail sector(or the lack thereof), it's striking how many retail and food industries are completely unorganized across the board.

Most labor unions are unwilling to devote the time and resources needed to organize workers in low paying jobs in the retail and food service industries. Their reasons vary from the high turnover rate, to the small bargaining unit in some fast food stores, to the fact that low income workers will have lower dues. While some of this reasoning makes sense, especially with the turnover rate with younger workers, ignoring entire industries is a failed strategy in my opinion.

In the next few entries, I will explore some of these industries, and whether union organization is feasible. The first industry I will look at is Pizza Delivery.

There have been two major efforts to organize this industry in the past. The first was an organization I was involved with, the Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers(APDD), lost an organizing campaign by one vote in Nebraska. The APDD subsequently ran out of money, and is now a distant memory.

The 2nd was run by a Domino's driver named Jim Pohle, who founded the American Union of Pizza Delivery Drivers(AUPDD). He successfully ran an organizing campaign and won a NLRB vote in Florida. Unfortunately, like 2/3 of workers who vote in favor of union representation, they never could get the owner of the Domino's franchise to negotiate a contract. Jim eventually ran out of money and merged his upstart union with the Amalgamated Transit Union(ATU) who promptly forgot about him. As a result, the AUPDD is now defunct.

I still think that the pizza delivery industry is ripe for union organization. There are an estimated 10k big 3(Domino's Papa John's, Pizza Hut)stores in the United States. Pizza drivers are already inoculated against management, as they have been getting screwed by them for years. With tip credit laws that are lowering hourly wages to sub-minimum wage, and lackluster mileage compensation, the vast majority of drivers are supportive of the idea of unionization.

Unfortunately, most labor organizations that have been contacted by pizza delivery drivers have been dismissive or completely unresponsive. One driver I know already have several signed cards in hand, and was flatly turned down by an organizer for the UFCW. This kind of attitude must be changed if the labor movement wants to start winning over the unorganized.

This industry could be organized if a dedicated(Unite Here! anyone?) union takes the strategy of organizing the biggest franchises first. There are franchises in each of the Big 3 that have over 100 stores. There is also a dedicated base of career drivers that are willing to jump in on the front lines if there is an effort with some legitimacy.

That is the key. Legitimacy.

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