While some have expressed displeasure with the recent photos of Jimmy John Liautaud’s hunting of leopards and other exotic animals, another much more damaging story has fallen under the radar.
In April, a Minneapolis-St. Paul Jimmy John’s franchise fired six employees who were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) for publicizing the fact that they were forced to make sandwiches while sick. While the franchise owner Mike Mulligan said that workers were not punished for taking sick days, it was undercut by the company policy that “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.” Even if they can get a substitute, the employees do not receive paid sick days and have no benefits.
The policy of having sick workers handle food has had dangerous results for the health and safety of the public. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there have been “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.” Two of the outbreaks were at Mulligan’s stores.
The IWW and the workers attempted to negotiate for paid sick days. When management chose not to discuss the matter, the union went public with protest flyers. For blowing the whistle on this health safety risk, the Jimmy John’s franchise fired these workers.
Along with grassroots political pressure on Jimmy Johns and the franchise owners, the fired workers have filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board and hope to get their jobs back. Erik Forman, one of the fired workers reflected on the findings of the health documents saying: “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.”