Skip to main content

At Jimmy Johns, Allegations of Illegal Union-Busting as NLRB Election Approaches

Labor Rights Violations Stack up as Sandwich Chain Turns to 'Union Avoidance' Consultants

MINNEAPOLIS– Jimmy John's will face a government investigation of 14 alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act at ten Minneapolis locations, the IWW Jimmy John's Workers Union announced today. The sandwich workers union has filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge accusing company owners Mike and Rob Mulligan of engaging in a pattern of labor rights violations ranging from physical intimidation and threats against union members, to tightening of company policies in retaliation for union activity.

“When we formed the union, we were hoping to just be able to sit down with Mike and Rob to talk about some basic improvements- sick days, basic respect, and a pay raise above minimum wage. We are dismayed that Jimmy John's has opted to bring in high-priced anti-union consultants and attempt to illegally union-bust rather than just come to the table,” said Ayo Collins, a member of the union.

Franchise owners Mike and Rob Mulligan have refused to meet with their employees to discuss their issues, prompting the sandwich workers to file for a National Labor Relations Board union election. The Labor Board recently announced that the election will be held on October 22.

If a majority of Minneapolis Jimmy Johns workers vote in favor of the union, the Mulligans will be legally required to negotiate in good faith over the terms of a contract.

In response to the union campaign, Jimmy Johns has contracted with Labor Relations Institute, Inc., a third party anti-union consultancy firm, to mount a comprehensive attack on union supporters. With the aid of Labor Relations Institute, the Mulligans have begun a series of 'captive audience meetings,' requiring their employees to watch anti-union videos in an attempt to break support for unionization. Other aspects of the anti-union campaign have crossed over into illegality, with reports of management threats, intimidation, and retaliation against union members surfacing across Minneapolis.

According to a 2009 report on employer responses to union organizing by noted Cornell University labor scholar Kate Bronfenbrenner, 63% of employers interrogate workers in mandatory one-on-one meetings about support for the union, 54% of employers threaten workers in such meetings, 47% of employers threaten to cut wages and benefits, 34% of employers fire workers, and 28% attempt to infiltrate the organizing committee. Due to these factors, only 45% of NLRB elections conducted from 1999-2003 resulted in a union victory.

In large part because of harsh employer opposition, union density in the food service industry hovers around a mere 1.8%. A union victory at Jimmy Johns could be a major breakthrough for labor in an industry where unions have struggled to gain a foothold, even as an increasing number of Americans find themselves employed in fast food.

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.

Related: - Cornell University Report: No Holds Barred: the Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing