June 3, 2011
Government Reports Reveal Jimmy John’s Lied about Pattern of
Food-borne Illness Outbreaks Due to Sick Workers
Company Credibility Erodes as NLRB Investigation over Firing of Six
attached: Minnesota Department of Health Reports
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
“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.