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Sunday, July 27 2014 @ 11:13 PM CDT

Panera Bakers Battle For A Union In A Union-Free World

Labor

Kathleen VonEitzen heads into work at 10 p.m. with a long night ahead of her. A trained baker, VonEitzen spends the evening and early morning hours cutting and shaping trays full of dough, shuffling between multiple ovens, and constantly checking her crusts until they're browned just right. She pulls hundreds of fresh baguettes, bagels, cookies and scones from the ovens until her shift finally ends around dawn.

Panera Bakers Battle For A Union In A Union-Free World

by Dave Jamieson

Kathleen VonEitzen heads into work at 10 p.m. with a long night ahead of her. A trained baker, VonEitzen spends the evening and early morning hours cutting and shaping trays full of dough, shuffling between multiple ovens, and constantly checking her crusts until they're browned just right. She pulls hundreds of fresh baguettes, bagels, cookies and scones from the ovens until her shift finally ends around dawn.

VonEitzen, 55, doesn't work in some boutique bakery, but in a Panera Bread franchise in Battle Creek, Mich. The company prizes VonEitzen's craftsmanship, referring to her as an "artisan." "It takes a special type of person to dedicate their night to baking fresh bread," Panera says on its website.

Though Panera bakers don't bake from scratch (the raw dough comes from a regional facility) they're still required to master a wide range of baking disciplines. They typically undergo a "bakery boot camp" that's at least seven weeks long, with homework, exams and demonstration bakes, capped by a 90-day on-the-job assessment period. Many bakers say it takes a year on the job before they can comfortably handle all the responsibilities of the kitchen.

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