Sandwich shop union waits for ruling over labor claim

Jimmy John’s workers decry alleged “anti-union” activities.

The Jimmy Johns on Oak Street prepares for the evening rush on Wednesday afternoon.

Image by Erin Westover

The Jimmy Johns on Oak Street prepares for the evening rush on Wednesday afternoon.

by Jennifer Bissell

Losing by only two votes in the union election Oct. 22, the Jimmy JohnâÄôs Workers Union is continuing its fight for âÄúbasic fairness on the job.âÄù
It will submit a condensed 10-point list of demands to the franchise owners within the next few weeks, and soon the National Labor Relations Board will begin ruling on the alleged unfair labor practices filed by employees in objection to the unionization vote.
âÄúWeâÄôre not, right now, pressuring them to recognize us,âÄù union member Erik Forman said. âÄúWeâÄôre just going to pressure them to meet our demands.âÄù
Union members say they lost the election primarily because of the âÄúanti-unionâÄù campaign tactics used by the franchise owners, which the union detailed in a 12-page objection to the election sent to the NLRB.
The objection, dated Oct. 29, cites specific instances when the franchise owners allegedly fired, threatened and retaliated against union advocates.
Mike Mulligan, one of the franchise owners, adamantly denied the claims.
âÄúWe are going to vigorously defend ourselves in each and every single one of them,âÄù Mulligan said. âÄúThey are full of fabrications and misrepresentations and, in a couple of cases, what we consider outright lies.âÄù
Forman said he had heard Mulligan and the franchiseâÄôs responses before.
âÄúThey can keep living in that fairy tale for maybe another week or two, until the NRLB starts ruling on some things,âÄù Forman said.
Forman also defended the union against the allegation that its members were lying, saying the union has a policy against sabotage, and only participates in traditional union tactics such as work stoppages, pickets and boycotts.
Of the alleged fair labor violations cited in the objection, one details an instance when a manager allegedly offered an employee money to vote against the union.
The manager offered to drive the employee to the election site and stop on the way to get something to eat if the employee voted against the union, according to the objection.
Mulligan said the allegation of was an âÄúoutright lie,âÄù adding that the employee had been fired since the incident for allegedly stealing from the company, which Mulligan said is on tape.
The objection also stated other anti-union employees received rides when no union advocates did. The objection notes one instance when a manager-in-training drove two hours away to pick up an anti-union employee.
The objection continues that employees were required to attend weekly meetings with representatives from the Labor Relations Institute as a part of a union avoidance program prior to the union election.
According to the instituteâÄôs website, the program promises employers the following:
âÄúYou donâÄôt win, you donâÄôt pay! If you donâÄôt win your campaign using the proven combination of LRI employee information videos, on-site consultation, LRI support tools and union-specific research, you pay nothing.âÄù
Though the union alleges the hiring of the consulting firm violated fair labor practices, both Mulligan and a spokesman for the institute said that the program was legal and a protected right for employers.
âÄúI assure you, if it had been a violation of the Labor Act, we wouldnâÄôt have done it,âÄù Mulligan said. âÄúWe are perfectly entitled to hold meetings, informational meetings, with our employees. We paid our employees when they attended those meetings and itâÄôs perfectly, not only legal, but appropriate for us to do so.âÄù
Currently, employees are submitting their testimonies against the franchise owners, and in two weeks the NLRB will announce if a hearing will be held.
Regardless of whether there will be a hearing, Forman said that if the owners donâÄôt respond to the unionâÄôs newest list of demands, members will begin informing customers of the âÄúsub-standardâÄù labor practices at the sandwich shops to persuade customers to boycott.
Mulligan said that since the union has filed an objection, the franchise wouldnâÄôt be in a position to âÄî or be required to âÄî negotiate with the union before the issue is settled.
âÄúAt this point, we canâÄôt,âÄù Mulligan said, noting that the company didnâÄôt want to anyway. âÄúWe prefer to maintain the direct contact relationship we have with our employees.âÄù