Kalamazoo, MI. – On June 28, three months after the majority of bakers employed at Panera Bread Café’s in the I-94 corridor division of Michigan voted to become union members, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a Federal Complaint against the company for violating worker rights.
The Panera bakers voted on March 23 to be represented by Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) Local 70. Following the union representation election, both the company and the union filed unfair labor practice charges against one another. After several weeks of intense investigation by Region 7 of the NLRB, the company’s charges were dismissed due to lack of cooperation and merit. The NLRB did find merit to all of the BCTGM’s charges and scheduled a Federal Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The company decided to settle the complaint rather than go through a Federal Hearing.
The settlement includes withdraw of all objections to the NLRB-conducted election; thousands of dollars in back pay to the bakers as well as thousands more in additional monies to resolve their failure to bargain. The settlement further requires management to post a 60-day government notice in all of the I-94 corridor Panera Bread locations. The notice lists all of alleged violations along with a signed promise not to further violate workers’ rights as protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Charges in the Federal Complaint include:
- Promising employees they could be promoted to a higher paid position and telling workers 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 employee complaints and grievances and promising employees increased benefits and improved terms and conditions of employment if they refrained from union organizing activities;
- Threatening employees with loss of benefits if they selected the union as their bargaining representative;
- Threatening workers with termination because they engaged in union activities;
- Unilaterally decreasing work hours without bargaining with BCTGM Local 70.
Listed in the complaint from Panera Bread’s Bread of Life franchise in Southern California is Paul Saber, Chief Executive Officer (CEO); Patrick Rogers, Operating Partner; and, Director of Operations, David Griego. Also listed in the complaint is Greg Collins, the Director of Operations for all Panera Bread locations in Western Michigan.
“Although a settlement was reached and approved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the company immediately returned to their egregious unlawful behavior,” notes BCTGM International Representative John Price. “Panera continues to run a campaign designed to discourage employees from exercising their guaranteed protected rights under the NLRA,” adds Price.
Federal Agents from the NLRB Region 7 will now conduct an investigation into 10 new charges filed against Panera’s Bread of Life franchise. Additionally, a separate charge for “refusing to bargain” has been filed and will result in a summary judgment from the NLRB.
“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,” says Daniel Wood , a Lead Baker at Panera’s W. Main Street Café in Kalamazoo. “We have serious concerns and issues we would like to have addressed in a union contract,” concludes.
Bread of Life owns more than 18 Panera Bread Cafes in Western Michigan and dozens more in Southern California.