After publicly demanding paid sick days, organized workers at the fast-food sandwich chain were fired.
March 25, 2011- Six key organizers with the Jimmy John’s Workers’ Union in Minneapolis were fired on Tuesday, March 22, after putting up posters around the city demanding paid sick days from the sandwich chain. According to David Boehnke, one of the discharged workers, the six workers received notices that they were fired for “defaming the brand and disloyalty to the company.”
The Jimmy John’s Workers’ Union, which is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), garnered national media attention last year, as it would have been the first union in the American fast food industry. These workers' struggles could have implications for the entire service sector.
The firings come in the wake of a National Labor Relations Board settlement which threw out the results from an October 22 union election that the Jimmy John’s Workers’ Union narrowly lost, 87-85. In filings with the NLRB after the elections, the union alleged that the Mulligans, owners of the Minneapolis franchises, had threatened to freeze wages, falsely accused union supporters of sabotage, and engaged in other illegal actions prior to the election. The settlement allowed the union to call for a new election anytime in the next 18 months.
Over the past two months, union supporters had been campaigning to get the Mulligans to negotiate over their “10-Point Program for Justice at Jimmy John’s,” which includes wage increases, guaranteed hours, and better job security. Recently, they had begun to emphasize their demand for paid sick days, wearing buttons that said “Sick of Working Sick” and beginning to put up posters around the city.
The posters show two identical sandwiches, asking, “Can you tell which sandwich was made by a sick worker?” According to Boehnke, the union’s goal is to “make clear that workers are being forced to work sick” thanks to the lack of paid sick days, which endangers the health of customers.
The union says that workers have trouble calling in sick both because they fear being disciplined and cannot afford to miss out on a day’s work, since many workers earn the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
In a press release from the union, Micah Buckley-Farlee, another one of the fired workers, said, “It just isn't safe – customers are getting their sandwiches made by people with the flu, and they have no idea, and now we're getting fired for blowing the whistle on this disgusting practice.”