Kalamazoo, MI. – On June 28, 2012, three months after the majority of Bakers employed at Panera Bread Cafés in the I-94 Corridor Division voted Union yes, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a federal complaint against the company. After Panera Bakers voted yes to be represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union Local 70, both the company and the union filed unfair labor practice charges against one another. After several weeks of intense investigating by Region 7 of the NLRB, the Government dismissed the company’s charges for lack of cooperation and merit. The NLRB did find merit to all of the BCTGM’s charges against the employer and has scheduled a federal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The hearing date was originally scheduled for July 30, 2012 to be held in an undetermined location in Kalamazoo, Mich. The employer’s attorneys requested and were granted a postponement on the hearing date.
“This is just another stall tactic by the employer and we can expect more in the future” said, John Price, BCTGM International Representative. “At every step in the process for these hard working bakers to become members of the BCTGM the employer has attempted to delay and stall the employees’ right to become members.” If this employer had any respect for our laws and/or their employees they would accept the results of the vote and begin negotiations in good faith,” Price said.
Some of the allegations listed in the federal complaint were as follows:
- Promising employees they could be promoted to a higher paying position and they could vote for the next person to fill the (higher paying) position in order to discourage employee support for the union,
- Coercively interrogating employees about their union sympathies.
- Soliciting employees complaints and grievances and promised employees increased benefits and improved terms and conditions of employment if they refrained from union organizing activities,
- Threatened employees with loss of benefits if they selected the union as their bargaining representative.
- Threatening workers with termination because they engaged in union activities.
Listed in the complaint from the employers’ Southern California offices were CEO Paul Saber, Operating Partner Patrick Rogers, and Director of Operations David Griego. Also listed in the complaint was Greg Collins who is Director of Operations for all of the markets and division in West Michigan.
Although the NLRB dismissed the employers unfair labor practice charges against the union they will allow the company to litigate the same exact allegations as objections to the election.
“I find it outrageous and certainly not business wise for our bosses to be spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting us, their own employees, rather than just sitting down and collectively bargaining a fair contract,” stated Daniel Wood, who is a lead baker at Panera’s W. Main Street Café in Kalamazoo. “We have serious concerns and issues we would like to fix and secure in a union contract. None of us Bakers are out to hurt the company financially, they appear to be doing this on their own,” Wood went on to say.
NLRB attorneys from the Detroit, Mich. offices will be prosecuting the case before the ALJ. The hearing will begin on August 13, 2012 in Kalamazoo and could last for more than a week or two. Afterwards the ALJ will issue his/her opinion along with a recommended resolution to the five members who sit on the NLRB in Washington, DC.