By Lauren Keene and Wendy Weitzel
The corporate office of Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shops shut down the Davis store as of Wednesday, after local franchise owner Mickey Mann sent an email to his employees, berating them for bringing Black Lives Matter into his workplace.
Michele Fagundes, president of Mr. Pickles Inc., responded to The Enterprise with an email Wednesday afternoon, before posting the same message on its social media: “Mr. Pickle’s is a franchise network of independently owned and operated shops. Corporate has been notified of the alarming and painful statements made by the owner of the Davis shop to his staff. We made the decision to terminate his franchise and (it) is now permanently closed for business. If that location ever reopens, it will be under new ownership that upholds our corporate standards.”
In Mickey Mann’s Tuesday email — which he confirmed sending — he said he was upset when at least one employee wore a Black Lives Matter pin to work, saying they brought politics into his store — against store policy and against his will. “I do not support Black Lives Matter. I never have and I never will. You do not have arguments that can change my mind.” He later added, “BLM is the flip side of the KKK. Their tactics are out of the Mafia play book.”
Similar business policies are not uncommon. Starbucks had a similar dress code policy prohibiting Black Lives Matter attire as political or religious clothing but exempting LGBTQ rights apparel. But on Friday, after social media backlash, the company reversed course. Forbes reported Starbucks “would not only allow staffers to don BLM attire, the company would make 250,000 specialty shirts supporting the movement.”
Mann wrote that he and his wife Bonnie were harassed by employees. “I am not one to bend to bullying or run away. The members of this crew that are a party to the bullying and attempted oppression of Bonnie and I had better understand that right now. I have no fear of the repercussions that may come from standing up to you.”
“I do regret putting that in writing,” Mann said Thursday, “because of the damage that it has done to myself, my family and my employees. However, the sentiment conveyed is my true feeling, I will not retract the sentiment.”
Three former employees of Mr. Pickle’s who spoke to The Enterprise on Thursday said it was never their intention for the Manns to lose their business.
“Never in a million years did we think that was going to happen,” said Z, who asked to remain anonymous. “I honestly do believe if that email (from Mickey Mann) hadn’t gone out, things would be really different.”
But Bonnie Mann said what occurred to the business “seemed to be a planned takedown” by a few disgruntled employees, even though the Manns had been working with the Mr. Pickle’s corporate office in recent days to “bend the rules” so their staff could express their support of the BLM movement.
“For eight years, we’ve had no issues with our stance that employees, or anyone for that matter, shouldn’t use our store for any platform,” she said. “We really believe the business runs better without all of that in the store. We’re there to serve food to people who are hungry and want to come in for a pleasant Mr. Pickle’s experience.”
But Z said she “immediately quit” after reading the email, because “I was just shocked at his words, that he did not support Black Lives Matter at all. That goes against everything I believe in, and I couldn’t work for somebody that believed that.”
The former workers said the events leading up to the store closure began late last week, when Z said she asked for permission to wear a BLM pin at work. The sandwich shop included four white employees, three Asians, three Hispanics and one who identified herself as black/Filipino/Mexican.
“I looked at the dress code, and there was nothing against it,” Z said. But when she asked Mann about it, “he said no, because he didn’t want to bring politics into the store.”
But another worker, Q, had been wearing her own BLM pin since Monday with no problem until that Friday, when Mickey Mann “told me to take it off because it was a political issue,” to which she said she responded it was “a human rights issue.”
Q said Mann told her “if I wasn’t going to take it off I should clock out and go 凯发体育官方sporthome, and I did.”
On her way 凯发体育官方sporthome, Q encountered a George Floyd memorial at Central Park and joined the crowd, sharing with others there her experience at work. Some asked if they could go to her workplace to talk with the owner, and she agreed.
A group of about 10 people, including several children, showed up and engaged in a conversation the employees described as “very nice and polite.”
That Sunday night, Q said she received an email from Mann offering a choice to employees of wearing BLM pins or providing a donation jar inside the store. That led to a team meeting the next morning, Monday, that a Mr. Pickle’s field representative also attended, the former employees said.
A third employee, Aly, said Mickey Mann “started to get a little agitated” during the staff meeting, which the employees said he claimed was being recorded.
“He basically expressed how he was feeling, and it was compared to the way a black man was being held to the ground by a white officer with a knee on his neck,” an inferred reference to the Floyd incident, Aly said. “That actually led me to quit that day.”
Still, Aly said she was willing to further discuss the matter after Bonnie Mann reached out to her, asking how to improve the workplace. Meanwhile, word of the alleged Floyd comment reached other employees, including Z.
“At that point, there was a shift,” said Z, who emailed Mann to inform him that the comment “was unacceptable to say. I honestly really tried to make it peaceful as possible for everyone, but it was really hard for me to defend them.”
Then came the Tuesday morning email. Z quit — “morally, I had to,” she said — and Q said while she told the Manns she wouldn’t be in for a week, “I was OK with not coming back, either.”
“They’re not bad people,” Z added. “But we’ve never really seen their true colors, and now they’ve shown us.”
Bonnie Mann said as she and her husband were becoming educated about the BLM movement, they wanted to back their workers by allowing them to wear pins on their uniforms and putting out the donation jar the Manns said they and corporate officials planned to launch with a $500 contribution.
They’d also agreed to display a BLM sign inside the shop, she said, and offered to give employees a day off to attend a “A Peaceful Protest for our Rights,” a June 6 rally in Sacramento, and any future events to “let their beliefs be known.”
“We don’t want to shut out everybody’s beliefs. We were allowing our employees to get the ball rolling on this, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” Bonnie Mann said. But when the changes weren’t immediately put in place, “some workers started using stronger tactics to get their way.”
Davis police logs show two calls to police on the issue over the past week — the first at about 6:20 p.m. Friday, June 5, requesting extra patrols following a “protest encounter” earlier in the day. A summary of the call indicates the “RP (reporting party) asked (an) employee to remove BLM badge, employee refused and left for the day. Protesters came back upset with RP,” and the owner expressed concern they would return to the business that night.
Police received a second report at about 10 p.m. Tuesday from a relative of the Manns, asking officers to stand by as Mann installed a closure sign at the business. The report said he received threats from BLM and he was concerned that his business would be vandalized.
Mann’s email to employees refers to police contact.
The Davis Police Department was “informed of the Libel, Slander, and threats that have been made toward us. … I have no fear of any or all of you quitting. We started the store with zero employees, so if necessary, we will rebuild from zero again. If Mr. Pickle’s Davis suffers window breakage, vandalism, or theft I have names of the people that I will hold responsible.”
Bonnie Mann said despite their efforts to resolve the issue, the shop was swiftly forced to close, putting their 10 employees out of work. She said some employees’ parents have called her “who support us 100 percent” but don’t feel comfortable speaking out publicly for fear of backlash.
“We have had numerous people stop by and call the store in support of us. Even today, we had a BLM representative stop by and let us know that she was very sorry for what had happened to us,” Bonnie Mann said. “This is proof why we had the rules in place that we did. Only to prevent this from happening, and to protect our customers and employees.”
“We did everything we could for eight years to create a beautiful place to work, not to create havoc, and havoc was created in a very short time by a couple of people,” Bonnie Mann added. “It’s so unfortunate, so very sad, that a couple of people can take the place down. This was a second 凯发体育官方sporthome for many of our employees, and we have been thanked numerous times for creating a safe haven for them to work.”
Mickey Mann’s Tuesday email to employees was shared on social media, and widely spread through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Nextdoor, with multiple comments calling him racist.
Bobby Coyote, who owns another restaurant in Oakshade Town Center, said he may have met Mickey Mann once or twice since the sandwich shop opened, but after reading Tuesday’s email posted on social media, he called the Mr. Pickle’s owner “an insensitive jerk.”
“Dos Coyotes supports Black Lives Matter 1000 percent and what happened in Minneapolis was one of the most disgusting signs of police brutality that I have ever seen,” Coyote said Thursday.
Mr. Pickle’s opened in September 2012 at 2191 Cowell Blvd., Suite F, in South Davis.ShareTweet