Jimmy John's illegally fired union organizers, judge rules [UPDATE]

sickdayposter2.jpg
This union poster shows the "difference" between sandwiches made by sick and healthy workers.
Jimmy John's violated labor law when it fired six union organizers in March 2011, a judge ruled Friday.

Administrative judge Arthur Amchan's ruling follows a February trial involving Miklin Enterprises, a local Jimmy John's franchisee, and the National Labor Relations Board. In 2010, several Jimmy John's employees tried to organize the nation's first fast food union. Six of them were fired in March 2011 after posting flyers around the city criticizing Jimmy John's sick day policy that employees can't call in sick if they don't find another worker to replace them.

That, union organizers suggested, led to sick workers coming into work and filling sandwiches with germs. Shortly after the workers began their poster campaign, Jimmy John's fired them, which led the National Labor Relations Board to file a complaint in November against Miklin Enterprises.

In his ruling, Judge Amchan says the fired workers -- David Boehnke, Micah Buckley-Farlee, Erik Forman, Davis Ritsema, Max Specter, and Mike Wilkow -- were illegally fired by Jimmy John's. Amchan ruled that the workers' posters were "protected activity" under labor law.

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Jimmy John's must offer the fired employees their jobs back, a judge ordered.

The store "engaged in unfair labor practices" by removing the workers' posters inside the Riverside Jimmy John's store and firing the workers, Judge Amchan wrote.

The judge also ruled that the store "engaged in unfair labor practices" by "posting an employee's telephone number on Facebook and soliciting other employees, supervisors, and managers to call or text the employee about his protected activities."

Because Jimmy John's "discriminatorily discharged" the employees, Judge Amchan has ordered the store to offer the employees their job back "and make them whole for any loss of earnings and other benefits."

The store has the option to appeal the judge's ruling. Fired worker Erik Forman doesn't expect the store to rehire the employees any time soon.

"I expect them to continue to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on their lawyer rather than do what's right," Forman said.

Jimmy John's has previously insisted that the staff firings came down due to the workers' "disparagement of the product," or the suggestion that Jimmy John's sandwiches might make customers sick, not the labor dispute.

"We welcome this ruling as a victory for worker's rights," Forman added. "Unfortunately, we feel justice has been anything but swift. We were fired over a year ago at this point."

UPDATE: Jimmy John's spokeswoman Kimberly Fields sent us the following statement in response to the judge's ruling this afternoon:

We are in the process of carefully reviewing the NLRB Administrative Law Judge's decision, however, we respectfully disagree with the findings and will decide our next steps shortly. The six MikLin employees were discharged in March 2011 not because of their union organizing activity, but because of their malicious actions to disparage Jimmy John's and its products.

The claim that MikLin workers are required to come to work at Jimmy John's while sick, thereby infecting the food with their germs, is patently false. MikLin has an outstanding record for food safety and quality assurance and adheres to all federal and state regulations. The Union's false and defamatory statements are belied by the fact that the Minnesota Department of Health's regular inspections have resulted in no significant food safety or sanitation related citations.

MikLin's absentee policies are fair and typical of the Quick Service Food industry. Employees who are ill with vomiting or diarrhea, or who have an intestinal bacterial pathogen capable of being transmitted by food are required by MikLin and by Minnesota law to call in sick and not come to work. There is no credible evidence that any MikLin Jimmy John's employee has ever been discharged for calling in sick. MikLin has and will continue to provide quality products and service to our customers and greatly values the dedication of our fine team of employees.

Previous

Jimmy John's on trial for firing union organizers
Jimmy Johns about to become first fast-food union
Jimmy John's fires six main union organizers [UPDATE]
Jimmy John's food-poisoning poster fight moves to Washington

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15 comments
Gargantuan Lover
Gargantuan Lover

Hey man, what's fair is fair. The market will adjust for whatever happens. It's just too bad that the owner (who's taken all the risk) has to take it in the shorts for these thugs.

Maybe we should just pass "right to work" and let the people decide, no? I bet there are sandwich makers who don't want money forcibly taken from them to fund the union bosses. When I read about the union president who gets a brand new Suburban EVERY YEAR, and can't hold meetings at the union hall (the bar has better atmosphere), and has really fuzzy math on the books, I get a little tired of people like you who think I'm the greedy one.

DoYourResearch
DoYourResearch

"Right to work" wouldn't affect this union - they're organizing with the IWW, which constitutionally prohibits "dues checkoff" or any kind of mandatory membership. Anyone paying dues to this union voluntarily signed up to do so. So yes, the people did decide.

Gargantuan Lover
Gargantuan Lover

I love Jimmy John's, but if they unionize, a gargantuan will never touch my lips again. I'm tired of people who think they own the job they take. The employer owns the job. I'm forced to be in a union, and I feel robbed every time I look at the dues deduction they take from my paycheck.

I can take care of myself, thanks anyways Mr Union Rep. You'd probably throw a fit if you knew I made more than union scale because my employer thinks I'm worth it. You believe the slug who doesn't bust his butt on the job should make the same as me. Where's the "fairness"?

James baxley
James baxley

 Get another job . . . it's that simple!

an other one
an other one

 sounds like one thing will continue to touch your lips jimmy john's union or not. probably while you're on your knees, right? they need ones like you, don't they? don't forget to calculate that into your worth equation. taking care of yourself indeed.

ProLabor
ProLabor

Thank you Jimmy John's employees for your bravery and perserverence. My co-workers and I recently won our election and are now suffering through the sore-losership of our management. Lots of ulp's. Your long-awaited victory gives me hope that justice, fairness, and right can still carry the day.

Greg
Greg

Good for the Judge,,, the law IS the law,,and while the employees who were fired may or may not see benefits directly or soon,,the message is there,, the line IS DRAWN. Real change happens in steps, and they made the first step on behalf of all of us. Now the effort MUST continue, each step will be on the way to better treatment for all. Congrats to the Jimmy Johns workers, may they become the Heros of a LARGE movement !

From a former Union Officer 

Chris
Chris

Good luck to the workers of Jimmy John's. The owners pay their workers next to nothing and are banking like crazy.

MNBusiness
MNBusiness

They make and deliver sandwiches for Pete's Sake. Let's be honest here, it's not a very high skilled job and you're easily replaceable as an employee. As far as the sick day policy, that is certainly something that should be addressed in a more appropriate manner.  That said, there shouldn't be an expectation that because a franchisee owner is making money on his investment that he should be required to share any of his profits with the everyday employee. They have an opportunity to approach him about raises, he has a right to refuse and they have the option to see other employment. Perhaps the local Erbert's and Gerbert's or Panera bread pays more to their sandwich makers. If the owner can't find someone as good at making sandwiches for the same wage, then he'll probably pay more if they choose to leave.  The expectation on the part of the person who commented above is certainly an expectation and attitude of entitlement. Are the workers putting up any capitol to buy supplies, pay rent for the business, pay for marketing? It's likely that they are not and therefore don't offer anything else above their skill at making sandwiches. If they want to make more money then they should consider getting a skill set that is in higher demand that commands a higher wage. Otherwise what they are making in wages is likely what  the market dictates for a sandwich maker.

Moocherin_and_Looterin
Moocherin_and_Looterin

That's right- everybody below a certain level is expendable garbage. What happens, though, when they realize they outnumber the people who gleefully use and discard them like garbage a thousand to one?

Present
Present

fuck you and your elitist attitude.  talking about people here jackass put some respect into your dismissive tone.  

sandwich AND union lover
sandwich AND union lover

No one's asking for shared profits, homie. They just want their rights under federal labor law, to which a judge has ruled they are entitled. Good on the workers! Fight the fight!

MNBusiness
MNBusiness

I'm not an employment law expert, so these former employees might have a point about the sick day policy at this particular place of employment. However, it's comments like the one above about making next to nothing, not getting living wages and demanding better pay  where I have to draw the line. I've got nothing against people who work in fast food and make a living there, I've been there myself and dealt with the same scenario, but you have to realize you're not offering a lot more than a low skill service that's easily replaceable and if you want a better lot in life it's not that hard to ask for a change, and if you don't get it move on and find another gig. 

It would seem the employer does have a legit gripe against employees disparaging the company's product, yet at the same time an employee has rights too. Although it's probably going to take a while to sort out it does seems like a good case for the courts to sort out where that line should be drawn. 

Research
Research

Mandatory sick days isn't a labor law.  I've had 2 waiter jobs and if someone called in sick they must find a replacement or come in.  They could get fired and if it happened more then a couple times they would be fired.  Both places were respectable restaurants.  Anyone I know who's a server has the same thing.  So if that server looks terrible it's most likely they are serving your food sick as hell just to save their job.  It's not right but it's not illegal.

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