Jimmy John's on trial for firing union organizers
Franchise owner Miklin Enterprises fired David Boehnke, Micah Buckley-Farlee, Erik Forman, Davis Ritsema, Max Specter, and Mike Wilkow after the workers distributed posters around Minneapolis suggesting that sandwiches at Jimmy John's posed a public health risk because sandwich-makers aren't allowed to call in sick.
The company is defending the firings against the National Labor Relations Board, which has filed a complaint against Jimmy John's alleging it violated labor law by firing the workers.
Jimmy John's vigorously denies firing the workers for union activities.
"The discharges here had to do with the disparagement that was found in the posters of the product," says spokeswoman Amy Rotenberg. "This was not about the labor dispute."
Jimmy John's union organizers lost their jobs last March
Rotenberg says Jimmy John's complies with all state and federal labor laws, and she touts the company's record on food safety.
"They've been in business for 10 years and have made 8 million sandwiches," Rotenberg said. "There have been only two reported instances of food-borne illness at Miklin stores."
The Jimmy John's Workers Union has a much different take on the case.
"I think the record in the trial says we were fired for campaigning for sick days for Jimmy John's employees," Erik Forman, one of the fired employees, said after the hearing.
Forman says the union's organizers were waging an internal campaign for sick days but felt they were being ignored by the franchise's bosses, so they took their campaign public with the posters. Forman contends that the posters were part of the union's organizing efforts and were therefore protected labor activity.
The trial began Tuesday morning and ended yesterday afternoon. Administrative law judge Arthur Amchan will decide whether Jimmy John's violated labor law by firing the employees. Both sides expressed confidence in their legal positions Wednesday afternoon.
Judge Amchan ordered both parties to submit written briefs by March 21. The judge will rule afterward.