The Jimmy John’s Defeat and the Trouble With Union Elections

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:26 pm
Jimmy John’s Workers Demand Holiday Pay

http://www.jimmyjohnsworkers.org/news/2 ... oliday-pay

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* press release

Sandwich Workers Bounce Back from Union Election Setback with Protest of Sub-Standard Pay

MINNEAPOLIS- Jimmy John's workers will call on Minneapolis franchise owners Mike and Rob Mulligan today to honor the spirit of the season by offering holiday pay to their employees on federal and major religious holidays. Workers plan to ask customers to sign 'Holiday Cards' asking the Mulligans to open their hearts and their wallets for workers who will spend Christmas Eve, New Year's Day, and other holidays selling sandwiches rather than enjoying the company of their families.

Although time and half pay on holidays is a standard benefit in almost all workplaces, Jimmy John’s falls short of industry standards by paying most workers minimum wage to work through the holidays.

“The Mulligans expect us to come in to work for minimum wage on Christmas Eve and New Year's Day instead of spending time with our families. It's not like time and a half is even that much money when you are making $7.25 an hour. This is really about respect. It feels like we're working for Scrooge,” said Brittany Koppy, a worker at the
Dinkytown Jimmy John's.


For bicycle delivery drivers, the pressure to work through the holiday season carries additional risk.

“Everyone is stressed during the this time of year and the roads are brutal. I fell three times and injured myself while working on Christmas Eve last year,” said Micah Buckley-Farlee, a bicycle delivery driver at the Dinkytown store, adding, “Holiday pay is an issue of both safety and respect.”

Company owners have ignored previous requests for holiday pay. David Boehnke, a worker at the Skyway store, asked franchise co-owner Rob Mulligan last week if the company would give workers time and half on the holidays. “Rob Mulligan responded, ‘What holidays?’ When I started listing holidays, He just walked away from me,” explained Boehnke.

The campaign for holiday pay is the latest step in an historic union campaign at Jimmy John's, a first in franchised fast food in the United States. In October, the Jimmy John’s Workers Union came within two votes of winning an National Labor Relations Board union election, losing 85-87 after management paid professional anti-union consultants over $84,000 to undermine their employees' organizing efforts. The Union has filed a legal challenge to the election process, alleging over 30 separate labor rights violations. The National Labor Relations Board is expected to rule on the charges in the coming weeks.

As the charges are investigated, the sandwich workers are forging ahead with demands for better pay and working conditions. In the new year, the Union plans to unveil a 'Ten Point Program for Justice at Jimmy John's,' outlining a comprehensive package of reforms to bring respect, dignity, and democracy to the fast food workplace.

The Jimmy Johns Workers Union, open to employees at the company nationwide, is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 5:03 pm
The Jimmy John’s Defeat and the Trouble With Union Elections

http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/ent ... elections/

Tuesday
Nov 23, 2010
10:53 am
By Joe Burns

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On Friday October 22, workers at 10 Jimmy John’s franchises in the Twin Cities rejected formal recognition of the Jimmy John’s Workers Union in a heartbreakingly close (87-85) National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) vote.

To some labor analysts, Jimmy John’s defeat demonstrates Congress needs to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. True enough: the Jimmy John’s election is a testament to why we desperately need to change the rules on union organizing. Yet the Jimmy John’s struggle reveals much more about the problems inherent in the NLRB election process, namely:

    * Unionism is about collectivity, but the NLRB election process is about individualism.
    * NLRB elections shift the terms of the debate, making the election more about the union as an entity than employer practices.
    * NLRB elections suck solidarity, the heart and soul of unionism, out of organizing.


To reverse labor’s continuing decline, trade unionists must confront these issues. Unionism, by definition, is a collective pursuit. It is about solidarity, struggle, and sacrifice—about workers joining to fight for common concerns. It is about collective decision-making—about workers acting and, truth be told, often thinking as a group. In contrast, NLRB elections are about individualism—pure and simple. By definition, an NLRB election is, as put in recent union-sponsored legislation, about individual “free choice.”

Anti-labor conservatives realize that it benefits the employers’ cause to frame the discussion in terms of individual rights: the “right” of a scab to cross a picket line, the “right” of a worker not to join the union, the “right” of an employer to denigrate unions to a captive audience of workers. For this very reason, employer-funded anti-union organizations adopt such names as the National Right to Work Foundation, posing themselves as the guardians of individual worker rights.

At Jimmy John’s, according to union organizers, the appeal to individualism was a key part of the management anti-union campaign. Prior to filing for the NLRB election, workers organized around issues of common concern and organized collective actions. Once the election process started, however, the terrain shifted from collective action to individualism.

As Jimmy John’s worker and IWW activist Erik Forman explains,

    the fast food industry is built on favoritism. Bosses get workers to think that they are their friends by allowing their favorites to punch in late, giving us a free meal here and there, not enforcing the dress code as strictly, or even just being friendly instead of abusive. If you rock the boat, all of these little benefits go away. The boss will tighten up the rules and target you.

Branch supervisors implied these special deals would go away and played up their individual relationships with workers. All typical union-busting tactics.
This individualistic framework fostered by NLRB elections raises several problems:

    * First, people don’t necessarily make the same decisions as individuals as they would make as part of a group. Ask any organizer: the best decisions are made collectively.
    * Second, approaching unionization as an individual decision requires workers to approach employers from a position of weakness. Yet labor’s greatest strength comes in numbers—in the solidarity of workers acting together.
    * Finally, as a variety of legal historians have pointed out, the labor movement approached the question of unionization as an industry or class question. The labor movement did not consider it the choice of any individual worker to undercut union standards in an industry.


The Jimmy John’s union faced another problem. According to IWW organizer David Boenke, once the Jimmy John’s workers filed for an election, the terms of debate shifted. Prior to the filing, the focus centered on the workers’ common grievances against the employer. The union organized around issues such as sexual harassment, getting fixed work schedules or increasing the number of drivers on a shift. In other words, the focus was squarely on employer practices.

Once the union filed for an election, however, the employer made the IWW the issue. Anti-union consultants argued workers would be forced to pay dues, even though the IWW was not seeking mandatory dues, and given its grassroots structure, any voluntary dues are minimal. The employer also red-baited the IWW, noting its radical origins. While any individual argument may not have swayed workers, together they shifted the focus from employer practices to the union as an entity.

According to some organizers, this was one of the most effective parts of the employer’s campaign. As Boenke notes, “We tried to avoid this question and keep the focus on management. But since the vote is yes or no to union representation, the question is hard to avoid.”

Another problem confronting organizers is that the NLRB election process does not how organizing typically works. Solidarity typically develops as a process. This concept should be familiar to any competent workplace organizer—you build strength one small action at a time. To anyone who has participated in a strike, this process should be clear. Battle lines are drawn between labor and management. The group begins developing a common identity. More militant workers bring along their more hesitant co-workers. As any student of labor history knows, the dramatic actions in the 1930s which built the modern labor movement were spurred by a militant minority.

An NLRB election is about something quite different. Rather than how a courageous minority can inspire co-workers, it is about where the vast middle stands after weeks of barrage by anti-union consultants. An election is not about building of steam; it is about delay and stagnation. Rather than a process of growth, an election is about a snapshot in time. That is why NLRB elections will never provide the upsurge necessary to revive the labor movement.

Difficult questions, and the need for new ideas


Leading up to the decision to conduct an NLRB vote, Jimmy John’s workers faced some difficult decisions. One path was to hold an NLRB election to become certified as the bargaining representative for Jimmy John’s workers and negotiate a contract. Advocates of this approach correctly noted that without an election, the employer would never negotiate a contract. Jimmy John’s owner claimed that the Jimmy John’s union was “not a real union.” Winning the election would bestow the government’s stamp of legitimacy and legally obligate the company to negotiate. Thus, the election route provided a clear path forward.

An alternative viewpoint advocated skipping the election and instead relying on the grassroots tactics that had, thus far, characterized the Jimmy John’s struggle. The shop floor power, the direct actions in the workplace, and the mass picketing did not depend on government sanction. While winning the election would force the employer to the bargaining table, only grassroots militancy could win them improvements.

According the Cornell University researcher Kate Bronfenbrenner, less than half of NLRB elections resulted in a contract after one year. For low wage workers, this problem is particularly acute.

The Jimmy John’s union has bravely taken on an extremely difficult task— organizing a low-wage, high turnover workforce in an industry with among the lowest union densities in the United States. So it is not surprising that they have confronted difficult questions. Indeed, the issues these young Jimmy John’s activists are grappling with are as old as the trade union movement itself.

Should workers rely on government support for their efforts? What makes a union? What is the true source of worker’s power? It is the answer to these questions which will determine labor’s future, not what is the best method of making house calls or which candidates to elect.

The activists ultimately chose the NLRB election route, in part because the alternative—winning improvements outside of a contractual framework—represents uncharted territory in modern times. However, even though they lost the election, the union vows to continue their struggle.

As Ayo Collins, a Jimmy John’s delivery driver, noted, “we have a mandate— more than 85 of us are committed to continuing the fight for decent wages, consistent scheduling, sick days, and the basic respect and dignity that all workers deserve. This is just the beginning of the fight."

The labor movement desperately needs new ideas. Its future lies in unconventional unionism: in the willingness to break with the conservatism of labor in recent decades to develop new forms of organization and struggle. Undoubtedly, Jimmy John’s activists will continue to face tough issues in their drive to organize the fast food industry. Whatever direction they choose, it is their openness to consider new ways of doing things which represents the best hope for labor’s future.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:16 pm
In Big Union Victory, Jimmy John's Union Election Nullified Due to Employer Labor Rights Violations

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Sandwich Workers Begin New Push for “10 Point Program” to Reform Fast Food Industry

MINNEAPOLIS– The National Labor Relations Board approved a settlement today nullifying the results of the historic October 22 union election at Jimmy John's, putting victory back on the table for the nation's first-ever union in franchised fast food. The settlement validates workers' claims that franchise owners Mike and Rob Mulligan were able to squeak out an 87-85 victory in the election only by resorting to unlawful tactics including threatening a wage freeze, intentionally fabricating rumors that the union engaged in sabotage, retaliating against union supporters, and numerous other labor rights violations.

With the tainted election results nullified, the union is asking the franchise owners to negotiate over its "10 Point Program for Justice at Jimmy John's," a comprehensive package of reforms that will bring respect, dignity, and democracy to the fast food workplace.


“There can now be no doubt that our rights were severely violated, but we're willing to put the past behind us. We are calling on Mike and Rob Mulligan to make a fresh start and work with us, rather than against us, to improve the lives of Jimmy John's workers and their families by negotiating over our 10 Point Program for modest but urgently needed changes,” said Micah Buckley-Farlee, a delivery driver at Jimmy John's and active member of the union campaign.

Based around benefits that workers in many other industries take for granted, the program is the response of Jimmy John's workers to their most pressing problems on the job. Core demands include sick days, improved job security, guaranteed work hours, a reasonable pay increase and regular raises, improved harassment policies, other basic job benefits, and the establishment of a system of shop committees giving workers a democratic voice within the company.

If franchise owners Mike and Rob Mulligan refuse to cooperate, the union has indicated a willingness to return to the trenches and continue the fight for union recognition, this time on terms that are much more favorable to the union due to the settlement agreement.

Under the NLRB settlement, Jimmy John's must cease engaging in a wide range of unlawful anti-union activities, post notices informing employees of the company's new commitment to obeying the law, and host a series of mandatory employee meetings in which a representative of the NLRB will read the notices in the presence of the company owner.


In 60 days, the Union will also be eligible to file for a fresh election at any point in the next 18 months, with an abbreviated “campaigning period” of 30 days, 12 days shorter than what is customary for NLRB elections.

Union member Ayo Collins said, "Mike and Rob Mulligan can either continue their losing battle against their employees, or they can work with us and distinguish themselves as leaders in bringing much-needed change to the nation's fast food industry. For our part, we're hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. We are more confident than ever that in the end, we will win, setting an example for 3.5 million fast food workers to follow."

The Jimmy Johns Workers Union, open to employees at the company nationwide, is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:52 am
Jimmy John's fires six main union organizers [UPDATE]
By Nick Pinto, Wed., Mar. 23 2011 @ 3:56PM

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2011/03 ... ns_fir.php

The ongoing saga of the drive to unionize Minneapolis Jimmy Johns workers took a dramatic turn yesterday when six of the central organizers behind the campaign were abruptly fired by the franchise's management.

The firings came shortly after the union stepped up its campaign for paid sick days. Under current Jimmy John's policy, workers can only call in sick if they can find a worker to replace them. Organizers say that's often difficult, so workers often have no choice to make sandwiches even when ill.


Last week the union plastered the city with 3,000 posters calling attention to the public health risk posed by sick food workers.

The six fired workers--David Boehnke, Micah Buckley-Farlee, Erik Forman, Davis Ritsema, Max Specter, and Mike Wilkow--say the firings are illegal.

"This is old-school vicious anti-union behavior, like you'd see before workers had any rights at all," Erik Forman told City Pages today. "You can't fire workers for organizing activities--we're filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board today."

Forman said the union will ask the NLRB for an injunction, which would put the fired workers back to work immediately while the board considers the dispute.


In a statement released this afternoon, Mike Mulligan of franchise owner MikLin Enterprises said the workers were fired for putting up the posters, which "impermissibly disparage our product by telling customers that eating a Jimmy John's sandwich will put them at risk of contracting food-borne illness."

That accusation just isn't true, Mulligan said, citing his franchise's "spotless record for health, sanitation and cleanliness" over nearly ten years.

Mulligan also said that while the posters claim Jimmy John's workers aren't allowed to call in sick, they know that's not true, which "further underscores these individuals' extreme disloyalty and malicious intent to damage our company."

Forman said he doesn't believe the posters are defamatory.

"The lawyers we've spoken to say we don't have to worry about that, because it's not defamation if what you're saying is true," Forman said. "We have the right to communicate with the public about health concerns."

Here's a closer look at the poster, with Mulligan's phone number redacted:

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:04 am
Jimmy John's labor dispute escalates: 6 former sandwich shop workers file labor complaint against their ex-boss

http://www.jimmyjohnsworkers.org/news/2 ... complaint-

Reprinted from the Pioneer Press!

Six former workers who led a union organizing effort at a west metro Jimmy John's sandwich shop franchise have filed federal unfair labor practice charges against their ex-employer.

The complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board says the workers recently were fired for engaging in activities that are protected by law. The activities included putting up posters suggesting sick workers may be making sandwiches at the restaurants and for inciting supporters to flood store phone lines at lunchtime.

In addition to filing the charges, the six fired workers said they would escalate actions against the Jimmy John's 10-store franchise until demands for the right to call in sick, paid sick days and reinstatement are met.


In the fall, workers at the Jimmy John's restaurants rejected joining the IWW Jimmy John's Workers Union in an 87-85 vote. In January, the NLRB set that loss aside and cleared the way for a new election if the union chooses to pursue one.

Meanwhile, union supporters have focused on changing company policies, including the disciplining of Jimmy John's workers who call in sick without finding a replacement. The franchise owners said they follow local and state health regulations and don't allow workers with flu-like symptoms to work.

The workers said that after management refused to talk about the sick-day policy, members of the IWW Jimmy John's Workers Union distributed 3,000 copies of a poster advising the public of alleged health risks at the sandwich chain. The posters show two identical sandwiches, one said to be made by a healthy worker and another made by a sick worker. "Can't tell the difference?" the poster asks. "We hope your immune system is ready because you're about to take the sandwich test."

Mike Mulligan, the franchise owner, said in a statement that the posters were "defamatory" and "dishonestly state that Jimmy John's workers are forced to work while sick and suggest that the health of customers is at risk when eating at our restaurants."

The posters urge patrons to call Mulligan's son Rob about the issue. The 10 stores in the Mulligan franchise are in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park.

The workers were fired "to protect the jobs of the people who work for the company." The franchise employs 240 people, according to the statement.

David Boehnke, 25, who worked for two years at a Jimmy John's in downtown Minneapolis, said he believes he was fired for his union organizing activity. "We decided we needed to make it more of a public issue."

Marlin Osthus, director of the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board in Minneapolis, said the agency will investigate the claims. When union organizers attempt to inflict economic harm on an employer, some activity is protected under law and some is not, he said. That's what investigators will be concentrating on.

One question regarding the posters will be whether they made it clear that a labor dispute was going on, a requirement for materials that are distributed to the public.


Julie Forster can be reached at 651-228-5189.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:41 am
Where is the NRLB? And people wonder why drivers are afraid to organize. The government agency whose job it is to protect them couldn't protect a turkey from Thanksgiving.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:26 pm
doughslapper wrote:Where is the NRLB? And people wonder why drivers are afraid to organize. The government agency whose job it is to protect them couldn't protect a turkey from Thanksgiving.


The NLRB aren't the police... They don't just show up and arrest someone suspected of wrongdoing. Like the article said, they will investigate and then decide what is appropriate. Considering that the employer has already been found in violation of committing unfair labor practices in the current dispute, the NLRB will need little more fault to find they have again broken the rules.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:45 am
Jimmy John's Workers Fight Year-Long Battle To Win Back Jobs

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/0 ... 67652.html

Posted: 05/01/2012 12:17 pm Updated: 05/01/2012 12:25 pm

Last March, Erik Forman was fired, along with five of his friends, from his job at a Jimmy John's sandwich shop in Minneapolis. A delivery man, Forman says he loved the work almost as much as he hated the company. More than a year later, he and his friends are still fighting to get back on the payroll and pick up their next shifts.

"For us, it's bigger than Jimmy John's, and it's bigger than our minimum wage jobs," Forman, 27, says. "We want go back there to do what we started to do."

What Forman and his friends had started to do was organize as a union with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a labor group well to the left of most traditional American unions. With many of them working for around minimum wage, they felt the pay was too low and the benefits too skimpy. But Jimmy John's franchises, like virtually all fast-food restaurants in the U.S., are union-free. The IWW narrowly lost an election for representation at 10 Jimmy John's. Amidst a very public and ugly spat between employees and managers over the shops' sick-day policy, six workers were given their walking papers.

Forman and his colleagues claimed they'd been illegally fired, and last month a federal administrative law judge agreed. In an April 20 ruling not commonly associated with the fast-food industry, the judge ordered Jimmy John's to reinstate the workers at the sandwich shop, with backpay.

Nonetheless, it could still be months before Forman is delivering turkey sandwiches again, if ever. The Jimmy John's franchise company, MikLin Enterprises, says it plans on appealing the ruling. The process could drag on for years.

"The six MikLin employees were discharged in March 2011 because of their malicious actions to disparage Jimmy John’s and its products, not because of their union organizing activity," the company, which runs 10 franchises in the Minneapolis area, said in a statement.
Champaign, Ill.-based Jimmy John's, which has more than 1,200 stores, said through a spokeswoman that it doesn't comment on litigation.

The IWW had started its campaign to organize MikLin's stores back in 2007, according to court documents. Workers voted in a representation election in the fall of 2010, with the union narrowly losing 87 to 85. The IWW claimed the company had unfairly swayed the vote, and the union was allowed to file a petition for a rerun election. But the second election would never happen.

As the campaign escalated, pro-union workers took on management over the company's sick-day policy. Like at many restaurants, the Jimmy John's workers had to find their own replacements if they wanted to call in sick, and they wouldn't get paid for the day. If they couldn't find someone to fill in, they were assigned demerits according to the company's disciplinary system for attendance. Believing this system to be unjust, Forman and his colleagues decided to make the public aware of it. That's where the company's claims of disparagement come in.

The workers hung posters on community bulletin boards that included two identical photos of a sandwich. Under one of them: "Your sandwich made by a healthy Jimmy John's worker." Under the other: "Your sandwich made by a sick Jimmy John's worker."

Beneath, it read: "Can't tell the difference? That's too bad because Jimmy John's workers don't get paid sick days. Shoot, we can't even call in sick." When the company didn't agree to grant paid sick days, the workers plastered the posters on lamposts, trash cans and mailboxes throughout the neighborhood.

Not surprisingly, the dispute also spilled over onto Facebook, where a rank-and-file worker at one of the Jimmy John's had established an anti-union page that was open to the public. An assistant manager at one of the stores wrote "fuck you" on the page to a pro-union worker, and also made a mocking reference to his apparent "unibrow" ("lolz," she added). Rob Mulligan, one of the franchisees, encouraged workers on the page to tear down the sick-day posters, according to court documents.


The six workers deemed the ringleaders of the poster campaign were fired in March 2011, effectively a death knell for the union drive. (The workers weren't all employed at the same Jimmy John's location but had been part of the same union effort.) In a disciplinary notice given to some workers, the company deemed the "widespread malicious distribution" of the posters an effort "to harm the company and to injure its business and reputation and that of the owners."

In his ruling last month, Arthur J. Amchan, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) -- the federal agency that enforces labor law and mediates between companies and unions -- found that the hanging of sick-day posters amounts to "protected" activity under the law because workers were in the midst of a labor dispute. Firing the six workers was illegal, he said. As for the sick-day issue more generally, Amchan wrote that "the lack of paid sick leave provides a powerful economic incentive for employees to work when ill and to conceal illness."

"The decision is not a huge surprise for us," says Tim Louris, pro-bono counsel for the workers. "We've been saying all along that these employees were well within their rights taking their sick-day campaign to the public."

Finding new work after Jimmy John's wasn't easy for any of them, Forman says. He has a degree from Macalester College, a liberal arts school, but hasn't found much work outside of the low-paying service industry. He's been pouring much of his energy into labor activism, he says, still hopeful that he'll unionize Jimmy John's.

"Everyone is trying to get by," he says of his colleagues. "At this point, just about everybody has found something [for work]. Everyone is still broke, but we're scraping by like millions of other people in the industry. It was absolutely worth it and none of us regret it."

Micah, another one of the fired workers, says he found a similarly low-paying job in the retail industry. The 24-year-old also has a degree, from the University of Minnesota, but he says he hasn't been able to find a typical post-college job since his graduation in 2010, either. He went 10 months without a job after getting fired from Jimmy John's, where he earned $7.50 an hour.

"The retail gig is alright, it's a lot more decent than Jimmy John's," says Micah, asking that his last name not be used so as not to jeopardize the new job. "But sick days, low pay -- the issues are universal."

Forman says after the recent ruling he headed to Jimmy John's to meet with his boss, only to be rebuffed and ordered off the property. He says he expects the company will fight the reinstatement order until the very end. Still, he thinks that he and his friends will ultimately prevail, and that someday they'll all be slinging sandwiches again.

"We're making tentative plans to work at Jimmy John's in 2013 or 2014," he says. "I'm clearing my schedule."
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