Panera Bread Bakers Vote YES to Representation by Bakery Workers Union
When the 18 bakers, who are employed by the Bread of Life Franchise which owns all Panera locations along the I-94 corridor of Southwest Michigan, decided they had enough of being improperly compensated as skilled bakers, they reached out to Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) through the union’s website, BCTGM.org. The Panera bakers were concerned with inadequate medical insurance, insufficient time off, unsafe working conditions and improvements to the bakeries that were being ignored by management. When 90 percent of the Panera bakers signed union cards, they approached management and requested recognition as a union.
No Money for Bakers but plenty for Union Busting
Rather than honoring their skilled bakers by recognizing them as a union, the owners of the Michigan Panera franchise, Bread of Life (a franchise of Panera Bread owned by Manna Development located in Encinitas, Calif.), hired a law-firm to delay a union vote by claiming the I-94 Division was not an appropriate unit. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled these bakers were indeed an appropriate unit and directed a secret ballot election be held on Thursday, March 22, 2012.
Bread of Life/Panera Bread also hired one of the largest known Union Busting Consulting firms to fight its own employees. “I felt like we were Prisoners of Panera, rather than Bakers of Panera,” one of the Panera bakers told BCTGM International Representative John Price. “They would work us all night and then force us to attend mandatory captive audience meetings in the morning.” Another Panera baker recalls, “They would keep us sleep deprived, hungry and then cram us with anti-union Panera propaganda.”
The workers held together through eight weeks of threats, intimidation and other tactics used by management in an attempt to pressure the workers to vote against the union.
Following the NLRB election on Thursday morning, which had voting at each of the six Panera café locations in Southwestern Michigan, the NLRB Agents counted the ballots and announced the bakers had won by a two-to-one margin to be represented by the BCTGM.
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