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Michigan bakers rally for union at Panera Bread

Fighting back in a ‘right to work’ state
By Tom Burke |
June 24, 2013
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Kalamazoo, MI - More than 100 workers and supporters rallied in front of Panera Bread in Kalamazoo, Michigan on June 21. Panera workers in Kalamazoo voted to form a union and join the Bakers, Confectioners, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) over a year ago. Panera bosses are refusing to recognize the union or bargain their first contract. The NLRB ruled that Panera bosses broke the law and ordered them to the bargaining table.

However, enforcement of the ruling is being held up by a Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals case involving the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) appointments by President Obama. That case claims Obama overstepped the president’s constitutional authority. Without the Obama appointments, the NLRB cannot function or make rulings because it does not have a quorum (enough members to vote).

The workers solidarity rally included a giant, ten-foot tall union baker - an inflatable representative of the Bakers union. The giant union baker showed his support by walking the picket line and waving to the cars and trucks honking in support of the union.

Union members and the community came together to support Panera workers, one who was fired and others who are being retaliated against by the bosses for forming a union. The rally also demanded the confirmation of the five NLRB presidential nominees.

Union struggles are heating up in Michigan since Republicans passed ‘Right To Work’ laws that make forming unions much more difficult. Spirits are high however, and the workers are determined to win this struggle for a first contract. It will set an example in fast food industries for others to follow.