NLRB: Local Jimmy John’s Owner Violated Labor Laws

The National Labor Relations Board found that Minnetrista-based Jimmy John's franchisee MikLin Enterprises violated labor laws when it fired six employees for engaging in union activities.

Federal regulators have found that local Jimmy John's franchisee MikLin Enterprises, Inc., violated workers' rights when it fired six employees in March for engaging in union activities, according to an announcement made Wednesday.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sided with the workers by issuing a complaint against the Minnetrista-based franchisee, which owns 10 restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park. The complaint was issued in response to unfair labor accusations launched by members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)-an international labor union with which some Jimmy John's workers are affiliated.

The IWW filed the complaint after the workers were fired after they distributed roughly 3,000 posters and protested the company's sick-day policy. The posters depicted two identical sandwiches, stating that one sandwich was made by a healthy Jimmy John's employee, while the other was made by a sick worker-implying that the restaurant's sick-day policy causes employees to attend work while ill, which could jeopardize customers' health.

Mike Mulligan, president of MikLin Enterprises, told Twin Cities Business in March that the posters crossed the line of what is protected under NLRB regulations. “These posters are false and misleading at best, and in the view of our company, they are defamatory, disparaging, and dishonest,” he said at the time.

However, the NLRB found that the poster protest was an organizing activity protected by federal labor laws, according to the Star Tribune.

The NLRB also alleges that supervisors at the Jimmy John's stores owned by MikLin Enterprises made disparaging remarks against the fired workers on Facebook and threatened to fire workers who support union activity.

“It's basically a complete legal victory for us,” Micah Buckley-Farlee, one of the fired employees, told the Star Tribune. He added that the IWW will propose a settlement with Miklin that includes reinstatement of the six workers with back pay.

Mulligan, however, told the Minneapolis newspaper that his company will “vigorously defend” itself against allegations in the NLRB complaint. “We don't believe the union publicity campaign falsely implying that our customers are at risk of foodborne illness is protected activity [under federal labor laws].”

If IWW and the franchisee don't reach a settlement, the NLRB's complaint will be heard by one of the agency's administrative law judges.

In October 2010, the restaurants' workers voted against union representation by the IWW, but the NLRB nullified the vote in January, giving the union another shot at getting selected to represent the workers, according to the Star Tribune.