Seven core members of the Jimmy JohnâÄôs Workers Union were fired Tuesday and Wednesday from five Twin Cities locations for distributing hundreds of posters claiming that eating at Jimmy JohnâÄôs Gourmet Sandwiches puts customers at risk of food-borne illness.
The posters were in response to the unionâÄôs unmet demands for paid sick days, which âÄúforceâÄù employees to come in sick, putting customers at risk, they said.
Union supporter David Boehnke, who was fired Tuesday, said the firings were outrageous.
âÄúWe were fired for saying we want better working conditions for ourselves,âÄù said Boehnke, who works at a downtown location. âÄúWe were standing up for ourselves.âÄù
Boehnke said their activities were legally protected because the employees were organizing for higher wages. However franchise owner Mike Mulligan of MikLin Enterprises disagrees.
According to a statement from MikLin, the posters disparaged the companyâÄôs reputation and showed âÄúextreme disloyalty and malicious intent to damageâÄù the company.
âÄúIf successful in driving customers from Jimmy JohnâÄôs stores, their actions would endanger the jobs of the very employees they seek to represent,âÄù the statement said. âÄúRather than truly serving the interests of our employees, their self-centered agenda in support of their radical organization is obvious.âÄù
The poster shows identical sandwiches, one labeled as being made by a healthy worker and one by a sick worker. The poster asks if customers can spot a difference between the two. âÄúWe hope your immune system is ready because youâÄôre about to take the sandwich test,âÄù it reads.
The MikLin statement also said the postersâÄô claim that workers are not allowed to have sick days at all is false.
However, Boehnke countered that without paid sick days, the workers are essentially forced to come in to work because they canâÄôt afford not to.
The workers currently have a four-point system, in which workers are deducted one point for missing work without finding a replacement and half a point for coming to work 10 minutes late.
At four points, the worker is fired.
Brittany Koppy, a union supporter and a senior at the University of Minnesota, said the point system was a new attempt by management to aid the stringent policy.
Previously if workers didnâÄôt find a replacement when they were sick, they risked being fired on the spot, said Koppy, who works at the Dinkytown Jimmy JohnâÄôs.
Koppy had also passed out fliers but wasnâÄôt fired. Instead she was given a final written notice saying she would be fired if she engaged in similar activities again.
Koppy said she believes she wasnâÄôt fired because she isnâÄôt a core union organizer.
âÄúI could get fired for anything at anytime,âÄù Koppy said. âÄúBut IâÄôm not worried. I know the union is going to take care of me if I do get fired.âÄù
Boehnke said the workers are seeking legal remedy by filing unfair labor practices against the company to win back their jobs and receive back pay.
âÄúThis is about trying to destroy the union,âÄù Boehnke said. âÄúItâÄôs something they shouldnâÄôt be allowed to do.âÄù
In January the National Labor Relations Board nullified the results of the Oct. 22 union election where workers voted against allowing the union to represent them by two votes.
In the settlement MikLin did not admit to violating the National Labor Relations Act but agreed not to engage in the kind of activities that led employees to file unfair labor practices regarding the election.
The 60-day period the union needed to wait before organizing another election ended earlier this month.
Boehnke said the possibility of an election âÄúis still on the table.âÄù