Labor board nullifies workers union vote

Jimmy John’s owner allegedly used “anti-union” campaign tactics.

Jimmy John’s employee and union member Ayo Collins returns to work after delivering a sandwich on Saturday in Minneapolis. The results of the Oct. 22 Jimmy John’s union election were nullified in a settlement by the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 10.

Jimmy John’s employee and union member Ayo Collins returns to work after delivering a sandwich on Saturday in Minneapolis. The results of the Oct. 22 Jimmy John’s union election were nullified in a settlement by the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 10.

Jennifer Bissell

The results of the Oct. 22 Jimmy JohnâÄôs union election were nullified in a settlement by the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 10. The settlement was in response to a 12-page objection letter and 21 unfair labor practices employees submitted to the NLRB detailing the âÄúanti-unionâÄù campaign tactics franchise owner Miklin Enterprises allegedly used in the election. Union members claim that during the campaigning period leading up to the election, Miklin threatened and retaliated against members, took down posted union material and blamed union members for equipment failures when there was no proof, in addition to other complaints. âÄúWeâÄôre very much average people and we just want to lead our lives to their full potential,âÄù union member Ayo Collins said. âÄúJimmy JohnâÄôs is where weâÄôre organizing but it doesnâÄôt stop there âĦ We are very much changing what the industry standard is.âÄù Miklin Enterprises did not admit to violating the National Labor Relations Act in the settlement, but agreed not to engage in the kind of activities mentioned. Mike Mulligan, owner of Miklin Enterprises, was unavailable for comment. The union can file for another union election 60 days after the Jan. 10 ruling, but Erik Forman, a leading union member, said the union plans to try negotiating with the franchise owners first. If Miklin refuses to negotiate, the union will file for another election. In the Oct. 22 election, the IWW Jimmy JohnâÄôs Workers Union lost by two votes, ending in an 85-87 tally. âÄúIf they follow the law [this time] weâÄôll definitely win,âÄù Forman said. âÄúAt this point, weâÄôre confident.âÄù The unionâÄôs ten-point list of demands includes increased wages, consistent scheduling, paid sick days, affordable health care, paid maternity and paternity leave and increased job security and safety. Humble beginnings University of Minnesota graduate Mike Wilklow, 26, got the idea to start a Jimmy JohnâÄôs workers union from a friend who had been fired by the franchise. The two attended an IWW meeting and Wilklow was impressed by the organization and its ideals. Shortly after attending the meeting, Wilklow was hired at the Cedar-Riverside Jimmy JohnâÄôs and began organizing. The unionâÄôs first big action occurred roughly three and a half years ago when a worker had been fired after getting strep throat. Wilklow said the union had as many people as they could call into the store demanding she get her job back, to no avail. âÄúManagers would always lie about [firings] and you never got the real story of why they got fired,âÄù Wilklow said. âÄú[It was] usually not for a legitimate reason and now that doesnâÄôt happen anymore because we have a really strong union presence.âÄù A couple of weeks ago Wilklow was hit by a car on his bike coming back from a Jimmy JohnâÄôs delivery. His kneecap was shattered and he has to take three to six months off of work for it to heal. Wilklow didnâÄôt have any problem getting workersâÄô compensation for the accident, but not all delivery drivers in the past have had the same treatment, Wilklow said. âÄúI havenâÄôt had any problems with workersâÄô comp but IâÄôve always had solidarity,âÄù Wilklow said. âÄúPeople are more at risk when theyâÄôre isolated.âÄù Life-changing work Forman, 25, had already been organizing for the IWW Starbucks union when he got a job at Jimmy JohnâÄôs in October 2009. Forman said he was aware of the Jimmy JohnâÄôs union, but that his primary interest was finding a second job when he accepted the job at Jimmy JohnâÄôs. âÄúThirty to 40 hours at Starbucks is more than anyone could stand,âÄù Forman said. âÄúI was glad [unionizing] was going on [at Jimmy JohnâÄôs], but it was a job and something more relaxed than working at Starbucks.âÄù Once hired, however, Forman said it was a natural step to start organizing with the Jimmy JohnâÄôs union, especially since the conditions were âÄúso much worse.âÄù âÄúFrom day one itâÄôs been disrespect for workers,âÄù Forman said. âÄúWorking conditions at Starbucks are bad but Jimmy JohnâÄôs is appallingly bad. ThereâÄôs literally no benefits, people getting hit by cars, schedule changes day to day, [and] you have outright verbal abuse and physical abuse from managers. You just canâÄôt stand by and see people treated this way and not do anything.âÄù However, Forman has also been subject to some bad publicity after he punched an anti-union managerâÄôs boyfriend in the stomach. Forman said he had been talking about the union with a manager outside of work when the managerâÄôs boyfriend started to âÄúpush and shoveâÄù him. Forman said he punched the boyfriend âÄúin defenseâÄù and still stands by his decision. âÄúI think you have the right to defend yourself if you are violently attacked,âÄù Forman said, alleging that after the incident the boyfriend threw a beer bottle at him before running away. Forman has been a seen as a key union member, often assisting with legal aspects of union and its IWW relations. Miklin has also singled Forman out as a primary leader in past interviews with the Minnesota Daily. âÄúBeing involved in the campaign has really changed my life and me as a person,âÄù Forman said. âÄúNothing is as inspiring as standing up and speaking out when you see an injustice and to see others lose their fear and stand up for themselves.âÄù