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VIDEO: Union members rally in support of Panera Bread bakers during Friday protest

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KALAMAZOO (WKZO) -- Union members gathered to protest outside the Panera Bread location on West Main in Kalamazoo Friday.

Many Panera workers in Michigan voted over a year ago to form a collective bargaining unit as a part of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, but Battle Creek Panera baker Kathleen Von Eitzen says the franchise owner is refusing to recognize them.   Former employee Kyle Schilling says he was fired after refusing to sign a disciplinary write-up without being provided union representation in the matter.

The National Labor Relations Board says that the franchise owner refuses to recognize the union.  In a filing with the board, the owner has claimed in their defense that the union certification is not valid because some board members making decisions in the process were appointed by President Obama while the Senate was in recess.

The franchisee has also issued a statement:

"We fully recognize the right to peaceful protest. However, we also feel that the truth should be part of public protest and we are concerned that a number of representations of our company by union supporters have not been truthful.

"Last year a small number of bakers at several of our cafes voted to be represented by the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers union (BCTGM). Involved in the vote were just 18 people out of the hundreds of bakers and associates we employ in West Michigan. From the beginning Bread of Life, LLC has disagreed with the NLRB’s decision regarding who is eligible to vote. We believe that all of our West Michigan bakers should have voted in the election and the National Labor Relations Board has long established precedent against splintered bargaining units. We have asked the D.C. Circuit federal appellate court to review the NLRB’s decision in our case.

"The issue has been further complicated by the D.C. Circuit’s decision striking down the recess appointment of several NLRB members and calling into question the validity of the Board’s rulings in 2012 and 2013 – including its rulings involving this dispute. Based on its decision, the D.C. Circuit has put Bread of Life’s appeal on hold."

The statement further added "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."

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