Retailers, consumers and prices
Jimmy John’s franchise fires union workers after sick-day campaign
The owners of 10 Minnesota Jimmy John’s sandwich shops — where a rare unionization vote was narrowly rejected last year – have fired six union organizers.
The terminated workers are members of the Industrial Workers of the World, a formerly high-profile union better known as the Wobblies, and said they were fired after they put up 3,000 posters (shown here) around Minneapolis as part of a campaign to win paid sick days.
Michael Mulligan, president of MikLin Enterprises Inc, which operates the affected Jimmy John’s restaurants, told Reuters that the terminated union workers “crossed well over the line of protected activity” with their latest appeal.
“The posters dishonestly state that Jimmy John’s workers are forced to work while sick and suggest that the health of customers is at risk when eating at our restaurants,” said Mulligan, who characterized the IWW as anti-capitalist, anarchist and socialist.
“These posters are false and misleading at best, and in the view of our company, they are defamatory, disparaging and dishonest,” added Mulligan, who said that his business has operated for a decade and served 6 million sandwiches without getting diners sick.
Most fast-food restaurant workers receive low wages and get little in the way of benefits such as health insurance. Paid sick days are a rarity in the industry, which is known for squeezing out costs in order to offer low-priced fare. One exception is San Francisco, which in 2007 became the first U.S. city to require employers to give workers paid sick leave.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a restaurant workers organization, in October released a study showing that nearly 88 percent of workers reported not receiving paid sick days and that more than 63 percent of all restaurant workers admitted to cooking and serving food while sick.
Mulligan said Jimmy John’s employees are not allowed to work if they are having flu-like symptoms. Those employees are expected to find someone to cover their shift if they are sick and may be subject to disciplinary action if they do not.
“Since they pay us around minimum wage, most of us can’t afford to take a day off to get well,” said David Boehnke, one of the fired sandwich-makers at the chain, whose mottos include “Subs so fast you’ll freak.”
“This is a public health issue. Jimmy John’s needs to do the right thing,” Boehnke said.
Erik Forman, another terminated worker, called the firings ”an attempt to destroy the union.”
“Speaking out against the policy of forcing workers to work while sick is not only our right, it is our duty,“ said Forman. ”We will speak out until they realize that no one wants to eat a sandwich filled with cold and flu germs.”
Where do you fall? Does the fast-food industry’s sick-day policy make you freak? Did the union members cross the line?