'Disloyal' Jimmy John's Workers Lost their Protections
A federal appeals court ruled in favor of MikLin Enterprises, a franchisee of 10 Jimmy John’s shops in Minnesota, saying employees there were “so disloyal” they were not covered by labor rules protecting unionization activity.
Pro-union workers had illustrated their opposition to the sandwich shops’ sick leave policy (or lack thereof) by putting up provocative posters in 2011 that purported to show one sandwich made by a healthy worker and one by a sick one. “Can’t tell the difference? That’s too bad because Jimmy John’s workers don’t get paid sick pay,” the poster said.
In the ruling filed July 3, the court said workers' comments aren’t protected by labor law when they are a “sharp, public, disparaging attack upon the quality of the company’s product and its business policies.” The court “declines to enforce the determination that MikLin violated the act by disciplining and discharging those employees and by soliciting removal of the unprotected posters.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit overturned an earlier ruling, by a three-judge panel of the same court, that had upheld the National Labor Relations Board decision in 2014 that the workers’ rights had been violated. The six workers in question were to be rehired and given back pay. MikLin Enterprises asked for and received a full court hearing.
The court upheld another finding in the case, agreeing that MikLin Enterprises violated labor law when supervisors encouraged employees to harass one of the workers who was also a leader in the move to unionize, the Star Tribune said.
The union-organizing drive at MikLin, led by the IWW or Industrial Workers of the World, failed by an 87-85 votes in October 2010. The poster campaign commenced in 2011.