Fired Chicago Lake Liquors workers still expect to get jobs back with back pay
The Chicago Lake Five, including Wallace (center).
Nearly two months after they were fired, the Chicago Lake Five still expect to return to work at the busy south Minneapolis liquor store.
And in the coming days, their case could be significantly strengthened by the National Labor Relations Board, which will soon rule on whether the firings constituted a wrongful termination under the National Labor Relations Act. If the NLRB rules in the workers' favor and a settlement can't be reached, the case might end up before an administrative law judge who could order owner John Wolf to reinstate the workers. (For more about the legalities of the Chi-Lake controversy, read our original post about the firings here.)
Marlin Osthus, regional director for the local branch of the NLRB, said most wrongful termination cases are settled before they reach a judge. But one complicating and unusual factor in the Chi-Lake case is that the fired workers insist on both receiving back pay and being reinstated.
"It's more often, if a case settles, that the employees end up waving their right to reinstatement," Osthus said.
One of the fired workers, 22-year-old Hallie Wallace, said she and the other four fired workers have no interest in a settlement that doesn't result in them getting their jobs back. She acknowledged returning to work at Chicago Lake would be awkward -- after all, management there has already hired workers to replace them -- but she said she wants to be reunited with her coworkers above and beyond anything else and wouldn't be overly bothered by any resulting tension between workers and management.
"We're hoping for reinstatement of all workers with back pay," Wallace said. "I want my job back, and I don't want them to think they can just fire people whenever they want to illegally. I'm really excited to go back and work."
Wallace said she and the others continue to occasionally picket outside the store. In fact, they've recently escalated their tactics -- last weekend, they blocked the driveway to the store, and they're planning a similar action for 7:30 this Friday evening.
"We're going to be trying to turn a lot of business away," Wallace said.
Wallace said she's doubts Wolf will be amenable to a settlement if the NLRB rules in favor of the fired workers. That could set the stage for some interesting courtroom drama -- according to Osthus, over the last couple years, the NLRB hasn't lost a case that's come before an administrative judge.
Wolf didn't respond to a voicemail seeking comment.
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