Jimmy John's franchisee settles with union

Minneapolis worker group to hold second unionization vote

The National Labor Relations Board has approved a settlement between a Minneapolis area Jimmy John’s franchisee and the Jimmy John’s Workers Union that sets the stage for another unionization vote.

The settlement nullifies an earlier vote held Oct. 22, which came out 87-85 against making franchisee MikLin Enterprises’ 10 Jimmy John’s restaurants a unionized operation, and allows a second vote to be held after a 60-day waiting period. During that time, MikLin must post a notice of the settlement and hold a meeting during which an NLRB member will read the notice to employees in the presence of their employers.

Staff members at MikLin’s restaurants started their unionization campaign in early September 2010, walking off the job to demand better pay and working conditions. In the weeks leading up to the Oct. 22 union vote, JJWU members accused MikLin owners Mike and Rob Mulligan and store managers of interrogating union members and threatening retaliation for organizing or involvement with the union.

With the settlement brokered Monday, the JJWU has withdrawn its charges against MikLin, and the employer admitted no wrongdoing.

“As a result of the investigation, approximately half the allegations were either found by the [NLRB] to have no merit or were withdrawn by the union,” MikLin Enterprises said in a statement. “The board found no merit to the most serious allegation, that the company unlawfully fired union supporters.”

The remaining allegations have been resolved through the settlement agreement, officials added.

“We could have attended a hearing to contest these charges,” the company said. “However, we believe that investing in an expensive process to determine a final outcome was not a prudent use of company assets, despite our belief that we had strong defenses to the claims.”

The JJWU, which is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World union, since has published its “10 Point Program for Justice at Jimmy John’s,” which will be the union’s framework for bargaining collectively with MikLin.

“There can now be no doubt that our rights were severely violated, but we’re willing to put the past behind us,” said Micah Buckley-Farlee, a union member and delivery driver at one of the Jimmy John’s units. “We are calling on Mike and Rob Mulligan to make a fresh start and work with us, rather than against us, to improve the lives of Jimmy John’s workers and their families by negotiating over our 10 Point Program for modest but urgently needed changes.”

The union’s principal demands include an hourly pay raise to $8.25 for drivers, $9.25 for in-store employees and $10.25 for shift leaders, as well as employer-paid health insurance that covers at least 70 percent of employees’ medical costs. In addition, the union is pushing for paid sick days and time-and-a-half pay for holidays and late-night shifts and for drivers working in inclement weather.

As part of the settlement, MikLin has issued a notice saying it would not engage in any interrogation or intimidation tactics or make any threats to dissuade unionization. The company already has made a merit pay raise denied to one worker during the months the union was being organized. MikLin also agreed to expunge from its records written reprimands of nine employees who were disciplined for various violations during the weeks leading up the Oct. 22 union vote.

MikLin still may make its case against unionization of its restaurants, so long as they adhere to the National Labor Relations Act, said Marlin Osthus, regional director of the Minneapolis office of the NLRB.

“They can campaign against unionizations; what they have to be careful of is to campaign in a lawful fashion,” Osthus said. “From my experience, an employer’s best bet is to hire counsel, or someone very familiar with labor law, who can advise the employer on what can and can’t be said.”

If the JJWU fails again to win enough votes to unionize the MikLin restaurants, another election could not be held for one year, Osthus said.

The sandwich chain’s parent company, Jimmy John’s Franchise LLC of Champaign, Ill., has more than 1,000 restaurants in the United States.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected]