Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Fist and the Fish - UPDATED

There is a saying among union workers that goes, "An injury to one is an injury to all." It is another way of expressing the solidarity that union members enjoy and cherish and which the greedy hate because it levels the playing field.

That was the thought behind this evening's first ever Solidarity Fish Fry.

The management at Serb Hall, the once go to place for Friday night fish fries in Milwaukee, have been trying to bust up the union there. Even though the union only has about a dozen people left in it, management has been harassing the the unionized workers to the point of driving them out. Management has also been bargaining in bad faith and are trying to get these few people to concede $80,000 worth of pay and benefits, all in order to pay for the bad business decisions that they have made and to feather the nest eggs management has been building up for themselves.

So, working off of a suggestion from the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, I created a Facebook page for the Solidarity Fish Fry, which I wrote about a couple of days ago.

I didn't know what to expect, since I hadn't done anything quite like this before. But I figured that at the worst, I'd get a belly full of fish, so it couldn't be too bad.

My friend, Billiam, and I. 
It started on a good note when we met my friend Billiam in the parking lot. Bill and I have known each other for years. We met through blogging and have been close friends ever since. The odd thing is that we are completely polar opposites when it comes to political issues, but we do have a common love for respect, honesty and good food.

The three of us entered the hall together and were escorted in by the host. As he was looking for a table for us, I pulled out my paper with the waitresses names and he said, "Oh, you would like a union table?" I smiled and answered in the affirmative.

He said that there was one open and ushered us to it.

As we were taking off our coats to sit down, one of the gentlemen at the table next to us saw my Blue Fist t-shirt and warmly greeted me. He said to me, "So, you follow capper too?"

I probably had the biggest, silliest grin on my face as I said, "No, I am capper."

I could feel my grin get even bigger and sillier as I saw the looks on their faces. They introduced themselves and I recognized them as two of my Facebook friends. The whole group told me how they read Cog Dis regularly and loved our work here, which is the same to a blogger as a fish fry is to a Wisconsinite. You just can't get enough.

The Burkwald Family with Patricia, our waitress
To make it even sweeter, they gave me a couple of donations to Cog Dis. That's always a good thing too. (BTW, tips are always gratefully accepted.)

As I looked around, I could easily see that half the hall was full. The other half barely had any people sitting in it. I can't say that all these people were there for this event or for the union staff who are being persecuted, but it sure seemed like it. In fact, just as recommended, people were sitting at the bar waiting for an open union table.

There were down sides to the event, sad to say.

One was that our waitress, Patricia, was the only union waitress working the dining hall. The other union waitresses were working on the other side of the building at an event. As you can imagine, poor Patricia was really busting butt to keep up with everything.

But despite her being so swamped, the service was every bit as good as the food, which was still absolutely delicious.

Maxine and Rob, proud members of AFSCME
and AFT Local 212
Without question, the biggest downside to the evening was Tom Miller. Miller is the general manager of the hall now. He is also a big bully that needs to learn some manners and some professionalism.

First he was observed in the bar area, loudly complaining about all the people coming in and asking for the union staff. Gee, you'd think that a restaurant manager would be glad that scores of people came to his otherwise dead restaurant. But not this guy.

What really set him off was that there were customers sitting at the bar, waiting to be seated in the union section. Patricia suggested that the customers could eat at the bar like they do for other customers.

Miller then became very verbally abusive to the bartender and the waitress, telling them they had no right to make suggestions like that

He then started to take it out on the bartender and the waitress. He was heard to say something to the effect of "customers are not going to decide how I run my business." I wonder how he plans to run his business if he doesn't have any customers.

UPDATE: Here is a first hand account of the way the manager was treating staff and customers.

Miller also told Patricia that he was going to write her up and start disciplinary actions against her.

Not only was this bully boy showing that he couldn't manage his way out of a paper bag even while equipped with a map and GPS, he did so in front of the customers.

As it sometimes happen, I had an opportunity to converse with the boorish Miller. I confronted him and asked him what was going on, why was he doing this to the staff? He immediately became very defensive and tried to pretend that things were going swimmingly.

I asked him again why they were trying to break the union and why he was so disrespectful to the workers. He again tried to deny what they were doing. Things became rather heated as he then claimed that the business was going bankrupt. I asserted that the problem wasn't the five waitresses but the poor decisions being made by management, which was only serving to drive away business.

He then started to lumber away. I called after him asking him if he was going to answer my questions and he replied that he would not before disappearing into the kitchen area.

I later learned that Miller is also the manager of Steakhouse 100. As you can imagine, that is one place I will not patronize.

Outside of Miller acting like a thug, everyone I spoke to agreed that the event was a success. People felt really good about showing support for the union workers in such a positive way, and like I said, the food and the service is excellent.

In fact, people that attended tonight want to make it a regular event. Many people that couldn't make it also expressed a desire for another event so that they could show their support.

Since this is a blog of the people, for the people and by the people, the path was clear. The people have spoken, and hence there will be another Solidarity Fish Fry this coming Friday, October 19, 2012.

And just like last time, the same expectations apply:
Something has to be done to help our brothers and sisters out.

But that something is not what some of you might suspect.

Usually the response to this sort of action would be to go to Serb Hall and protest their unfair labor practices and/or to boycott the place.

I do want you to go to Serb Hall, but not to protest or hold a rally.

I want you to go to Serb Hall and enjoy a fish fry. But I want you to go and make sure you ask to be seated in one of the union waitress sections. Ask for Patricia, Sandra, Mary Ann, Victoria, and/or Michelle. If the hostess tries to tell you their sections are full, tell her you'll wait until there is an opening.

And while the board had taken away their gratuities, the union won them back through arbitration. So after you have enjoyed your meal, please make sure you leave a healthy tip. The waitresses will appreciate it and it will send a clear message to the board that they would do well to rethink their policy.

And tell them Cog Dis sent ya.
Meg and I look forward to feasting on fish and showing support for our union brothers and sisters with you.


  1. Thank you for doing this. I remember when I lived there that people would be lined up outside the door waiting to get in. Too bad that management can't seem to take the blame for the loss of business, instead of blaming the people that probably are the reason it even stays in business.

  2. It's truly amazing how quickly bad management can run a business into the ground, especially a restaurant.

    If the manager is upset by increased business all he has to do is provide more union waitstaff. Hell, you're giving this fool a business plan than can turn things around. Before he knows it he'll have a full house and happy employees. The horror.

  3. Capper, I wish I still lived in Milwaukee. I would be there for every Fish & Fist.

    What a great idea and marvelous way to show support and solidarity.

    A call to corporate about the management wouldn't be a bad idea either.

  4. warren FROM GREENDALEOctober 13, 2012 at 2:36 PM


  5. Bill, I don't remember the goatee. It's been too long.

  6. Has anyone bothered to inform Tim Miller that the countless Union events and many Fish Fry customers that patronize Serb Hall do so specifically because they are a Union Facility? The countless Dinners, Dances and Meetings from the Teachers, Milwaukee Police Union, Postal carriers and many smaller groups active and retirees all choose Serb Hall because it a Union House. Last evening I learned that of the 12 waitstaff on duty only 1 was a Union Girl. One! Our neighbor informed me that pre Tim Miller or two short years ago all of the Friday Staff was Union except for one ! My neighbor has also sadly moved on after 15 yrs. of service because of the continual bullying and blaming the workers for poor management decisions. Tim Miller believes that he has already won the battle because of the way he has chizzled down the Union Members numbers. What he needs to learn is that if you attack the employees at Serb Hall your also attacking each of us! We hope that the Board of Directors replaces this Union Busting Bully before any more damage needs to be repaired. We would all like to continue patronizing Serb Hall but this will not be the case if these tactics continue! Please write letters or visit their web site to share your veiws and show support for those 14 workers who need our help!

    1. The management is trying to tell the tale that the unions will still support Serb Hall and hold their events there despite their open hostility to the unions. This is so false that it's almost laughable.

  7. It is completely unbelievable what is going on at Serb Hall. The management feels as if they can get away with whatever the feel like. It is not 14 Union waitresses left, it is 14 Union employees left. With only three...maybe four UNION Bartenders remaining they have been trying to fill the spots in with college age bartenders (mostly attractive females), which not a single one has their bartenders license (Ask to see a license and see the response you get). Most of the employees that are employed with Serb Hall are not Union members because they are in college. It has been heard that the first question when asking for an application is "Are you in school?" If the person says no...."Sorry We are not hiring." "Yes" and "When can you start?" Go try it for yourself and see what happens. If the person is supposed to be in the Union according to the guidelines and has been there for some time, the management will get rid of them before a card can be signed. I have so much more for anyone who is interested.