PENSACOLA, Fla. — Eleven Domino’s employees hoping to make a little more dough and get a bigger slice of the profits have formed the nation’s first union of pizza delivery drivers.
The American Union of Pizza Delivery Drivers won recognition from the National Labor Relations Board over the summer as the bargaining agent for drivers at a Pensacola franchise.
The union organizing drive was started by Jim Pohle, a 37-year-old Domino’s driver who said he delivers pizzas because he likes to sleep late, smoke on the job and listen to the radio.
“When they declared us tipped employees and refused to pay us the Florida minimum wage of $6.40, I was kind of angry. I came home that night and I told my buddy, I said. ‘We are forming a union,”’ he said.
He said he got on the Internet and found St. Louis labor attorney Mark Potashnick, who worked on unsuccessful organizing efforts by pizza workers in Ohio, Michigan and St. Louis. He coached Pohle on submitting a petition to the NLRB.
Rodney Johnson, a regional director for NLRB, said the union appears to be the first of its kind.
Tim McIntyre, a spokesman for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Domino’s Pizza Inc., said that while the Pensacola franchise was independently owned and operated, the company was disappointed by the union vote.
“We do not believe it is necessary in our industry, and are surprised that the individual employees in that store voted to turn over their ability to represent themselves to their supervisor to someone else,” he said in a statement.
Pohle’s union and the franchise owner have not agreed on wages and working conditions Apart from wages, many pizza delivery drivers nationally have discussed forming unions because they are often the victims of robbers.
In the meantime, the franchise owners have raised the pay of some drivers at their six nonunion stores, Pohle said.
Keith Pyburn, an attorney for the franchise owner, would not discuss employee pay, and said only that the company is meeting its legal obligation to bargain with the union.
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The union could open doors for other fast-food workers, said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
She pointed to recent organizing efforts by Starbucks employees in New York and Chicago. The Industrial Workers of the World has members at seven Starbucks Corp. stores.
Mark Damron, spokesman for Industrial Workers of the World, said the prospects for unionizing fast-food employees are encouraging because older people are taking service industry jobs that were traditionally held by younger workers.
“As these people move into those jobs, they have higher expectations. You are going to see more agitation and expectations among middle-aged men who have been downsized and are now working as baristas or short-order cooks,” he said.
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