Company Credibility Erodes as NLRB Investigation over Firing of Six
MINNEAPOLIS- Two months after Jimmy John’s fired six workers for blowing the whistle on a company practice of forcing sandwich-makers to work while sick, the IWW Jimmy John’s Workers Union has released Minnesota Department of Health documents today revealing eight outbreaks of foodborne illness at franchises across the Twin Cities area in the past five years, seven of which were due to employees working while sick at the chain. The release of the documents seriously erodes the credibility of Minneapolis franchise owner Mike Mulligan who had previously claimed to reporters and employees that, “the company has made more than 6 million sandwiches during its nearly 10 years in business—and no one’s ever gotten sick from eating one.” Two of the outbreaks, both caused by sick employees, were at the Mulligans’ stores.
“This is smoking gun evidence not only of the seriousness of the public health risk caused by workers being forced to work while sick at Jimmy John’s, it also proves that Jimmy John’s franchise owner Mike Mulligan willfully lied to the media, the public, and his employees about his food safety track record. We will continue our fight for paid sick days for restaurant workers until Jimmy John’s changes their policy to protect workers and the public,” said Max Specktor, one of
the fired whistleblowers.
Although franchise owner Mike Mulligan has also publicly denied disciplining workers for calling in sick, the company’s own written policy mandates one to two disciplinary ‘points’ for workers who call in without finding a replacement, even if they have a doctor’s note.
Workers are fired after accumulating six points. In addition to the threat of discipline for calling in sick, workers are often unable to afford to take a day off if they fall ill because wages at the sandwich chain hover around the federal minimum of $7.25 and the company offers no benefits.
According to results of a survey of 40 sandwich workers conducted by the IWW Jimmy John’s Workers Union, the threat of discipline and poverty wages result in an average of at least two workers working while sick at Jimmy John’s in Minneapolis every single day. The union plans to release a report highlighting these findings next week.
In an effort to silence employees who blew the whistle on serious food safety hazards at Jimmy John’s, the company fired six workers in March for putting up posters demanding the right to call in sick and paid sick days in order to avoid exposing customers to infection.
The fired workers filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board in April seeking reinstatement to their positions. Although ample case law precedent protects workers’ right to inform the public of a labor dispute or unsafe working conditions, the fired Jimmy John’s workers’ charge has been sent to the NLRB’s Division of Advice in Washington, DC for additional investigation due to recent government procedural changes. Union members hope for a legal decision in the coming weeks.
“These Department of Health reports definitively show what we already knew- we were fired for telling the truth about food safety hazards at Jimmy John’s. We hope that the NLRB will expedite our case because there is no time to lose in bringing healthy working conditions to the fast food industry,” said Erik Forman, one of the fired workers.
The Jimmy Johns Workers Union, open to employees at the company nationwide, is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people.