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.[jump]
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:
Previous Jimmy John's Union Coverage:
- Jimmy John's workers launch union protest
- Jimmy John's about to become first fast food union
- Jimmy John's historic union vote ends with defeat
Jimmy John's Union wants holiday pay
- Jimmy John's Workers negotiating settlement on union
- Jimmy John's Workers Union wins a new lease on life