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Michigan union dispute tied to much bigger national issue

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal court challenge is blocking a group of west Michigan bakers from forming a union.

A federal court is preventing the National Labor Relations Board from certifying local union elections, because three of the board’s five members were appointed by President Obama without congressional approval.

In 2012, Panera Bread bakers voted to form a union at 6 locations along I-94 in west Michigan. The NLRB certified the vote.  But because of the legal challenge to the president’s appointees, the issue remains in limbo. 

Union official John Price says businesses, wanting to break unions, are using the dispute to stall the Panera union certification and hundreds of others.

“They believe they can bust the union,” says Price, “This could get ugly before it gets better.”

A local Panera spokesman says they are just following the rules and are also frustrated by the process. According to a written statement from the local Panera Bread franchisee, Bread of Life:

Until the bargaining unit issue is resolved we cannot recognize or bargain with the union. This is the established procedure for undertaking a federal appellate review, and the union understands this process. Public protests to disrupt our business cannot change this legal process.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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