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WHAT IT MIGHT COST YOU IF THE WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE

While state-level ballot initiatives have recently gotten most of the attention in the minimum wage arena, union organizing activity now ranks as a second factor that could potentially increase labor costs for many restaurant operators.

To date, the initial attempts at forming a union shop by the 600-member Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers (APDD) have failed. The first vote, held at a Domino’s unit in Lincoln, NE, ended in a two-two tie. The second, which took place at a Pizza Hut in Sunbury, OH, failed by a 9-3 count. The National Labor Relations Board supervised elections at both locations.

The issues in the Sunbury election focused squarely on compensation. Drivers there earn about $6 an hour and are paid $.75 per delivery, no matter how far away a delivery might be. APDD hoped to force collective bargaining, which would result in drivers earning $9 an hour and receiving a mileage allowance in the 30-40 cent range, the standard reimbursement for most companies in which employees use their personal vehicle to conduct a company’s business. Drivers also want help paying for their expensive commercial driver’s insurance.

Ignore the two election losses, says APDD (www.pizzadeliverydrivers.org). The group claims the real key to their effort came when the NLRB ruled in late October that delivery drivers constitute a separate bargaining unit, even when there are other employees in the restaurant. Such a ruling means that union organizers can work on just the drivers at a store.

Meanwhile, both statewide minimum wage initiatives up for a vote in the 2004 elections passed. Now businesses in both Florida and Nevada will soon have to pay workers a minimum wage of $6.15—$1 more than the prevailing federal minimum wage. Those two states join 11 others whose minimum wage has been set above the federal level. The first to do so, Washington State, began to index its minimum wage to inflation in 1997. Minimum wage there now stands at $7.16 an hour.

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