Ohio man seeks to organize workers in one of nation's most dangerous professions

On November 17, 2004, the Associated Press reported that a fledgling national union for pizza drivers is demanding better wages and training, saying the large chains have been taking advantage of them for years.

Tim Lockwood, treasurer for the Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers (Hendersonville, TN), said the union started just a couple of years ago with a few drivers talking in an Internet chat room about unfair working conditions.

"It's sort of like the thing reached critical mass. We built a Web site and they came," said Lockwood, a pizza delivery driver who declined to identify the company that employs him.

Now, the AP says, they have about 600 drivers from across the country signed up for the free union, and he feels momentum gathering for more unionization votes.

Lockwood said pizza drivers make $5.50 to $6 an hour, plus tips, and get reimbursed 50 to 75 cents per delivery - no matter how far away it is. Even worse, he said, pizza delivery is annually ranked among the most dangerous professions.

"A lighted pizza sign on a car in a bad area says, 'Look at me - I've got food, I've got cash and I'm unarmed,'" he said.

Matt Howard, a driver for a Pizza Hut in Sunbury, Ohio, found the union's site on the Internet. Now he's pushing for unionization for drivers at his shop in a vote next week, which will be run by the National Labor Relations Board.

First, though, according to the AP, he had to fight off a legal challenge from the owner of the franchise. The 25-year-old says he's had his hours cut, and his wife - who also works at the store - fears retribution.

"The company keeps calling meetings to try to talk us out of the union," Howard told the AP. "They are trying to do everything they can to take away our right to vote."

The Sunbury store declined comment Wednesday.

Howard said he thinks the seven or eight drivers at the store will approve the union idea, even though he said the owners are stacking the vote with a few managers they are labeling as drivers.

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