Thursday, November 8, 2012

Solidarity Fish Fry, Week 5: Oh, For Fork's Sake!

Five weeks ago, I had first heard of the plight of Local 122, the union representing the wait staff at Serb Hall in Milwaukee. Management at Serb Hall was trying to bust the union by bad faith bargaining, harassing the workers and wanting to strip them of all their rights and benefits.

That is when I made an unique suggestion on how to show our support for our union sisters and brothers:
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.
The response was even better than I could have hoped. Since then, it has continued to grow, and just last week, it became an international affair.

Sadly, at least one of the waitresses, Patricia, was driven out since this first started.

At that first Solidarity Fish Fry, my wife and I, as well as half the dining room, had the unpleasant experience of seeing the general manager, Tom Miller, openly berate, harass and threaten Patricia in front of her coworkers and customers alike.

I got into it with him that night, and I have no regrets for it.

Especially after what I learned tonight.

Tonight I got a clearer picture of just how bad it is for the union workers there. Here are some of the things that the union workers have had to deal with in the past several months:
  • Bad faith bargaining
  • Being targets of harassment (like I just mentioned),
  • Not being allowed to exercise protected rights,
  • Management interrogating workers regarding union activities, and not allowing union representation be present,
  • Stopped providing health care coverage
  • Stopped providing dental coverage
  • Discrimination against potential employees who might be eligible to join the union
The union has responded as they should. Instead of rolling over, they chose to dig in and fight. They've filed no less than nine charges against Serb Hall with the National Labor Relations Board.

And despite what management is trying to tell people that they won't lose union business, I hope they were eavesdropping on the Labor Council meeting tonight. Then they would have heard Sheila Cochran, Secretary/Treasurer of the Milwaukee County Labor Council say very clearly that she is very concerned about what is going on at Serb Hall and that this might very well be the last year that we meet at Serb Hall or use it for any of our other events, including many unions' holiday parties.

The members of Local 122 also repeatedly told us how much the support of the Solidarity Fish Fry means to them and how it's helped to get management to start budging.  The round of applause showing our support for the workers was deafening.

Which brings us to this Friday, which will be the fifth week for the Solidarity Fish Fry. There are no more election cycles looming. Thanksgiving isn't for two more weeks, so you have lots of time to buy your turkey. There are no excuses for us not to make this the biggest week for the Solidarity Fish Fry yet.

And I'm not talking to just my union brothers and sisters. I'm talking to everyone that believes that workers should be treated fairly and with respect. I'm talking to the politicians who claim they stand with labor. I'm talking to each and every one of you.

Please join Randy Bryce (who's coming with the other old fogies for the very early dinner) and me this Friday, November 9th, for the fifth helping of Solidarity Fish Fry.

All you do is come for a fish fry, anytime between 11:30 am and 9 pm, and ask for a union server.

Put your forks where your mouth is.

One fish fry longer, one fish fry stronger.

And tell them Cog Dis sent ya!


  1. To bad you only know what is told to you, things are not what you say. You are one irresponsible blogger stating what you want to promote as your beliefs. The union at Serb Hall has 4 part time servers, working about 20 hours a week. Most have full time non union jobs. The old contract protect and favor only them as opposed to other union and non union workers there. The bad faith relates to the union representatives representing the servers not the whole membership who would all receive more money and benefits under a new contract proposed by Serb Hall. Get your facts correct before putting your foot in your mouth.
    One upset Serb Hall Employee.

    1. I have seen the complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. I know your statements to be false. Discrimination is unacceptable, or at least should be, to anyone.

  2. Again you know only what has been written by the union representatives, after the NLB interviews all of the employees they will find the truth and you will find out both sides.The discrimination is against all the employees by the union only representing 4 members.

    1. What's stopping you from joining the union then?

  3. It would cost me more in union dues than I would make because the seniority clause only allows the top 4 members remaining to get all the banquets. What sense does that make? They need to make a contract that represents all servers so we can make a living not just live off the scraps and small tipped banquets the senior ones pass by taking vacation days if they don't see it yielding them the high tips.

  4. Capper cat got your tongue, tell me again why i should join and pay dues? Management at Serb Hall is happy accommodating you but you should hear what the remaining union servers are saying about your group in the break room. I see more leaving soon cannot keep working the way you want it. I made as much as I expected, not waiting on your groups. Many come here just for the good inexpensive food and all of our servers waiting on their tables. Keep up the good work and the union will soon have no members.

    1. I'm waiting for you to grow up and tell the truth. Your two comments are contradicting each other. First you complain about getting scraps and then state you make what you expect to make.

      And the high school crap is hilarious. That sounds like so much spam.

      And if management does force the union out, what do you think you'll gain. They still have to deal with the NLRB and the consequences of their illegal actions.

      And don't think we haven't been watching. We know what will happen if we stop supporting the unions. We see how empty your parking lot is. We see how many empty tables there are in the non-union sections.

      Looks to me like if you want to make a living, and maybe even save your own job, you might want to join the union and pull together. Stand together or fall apart. It's your choice.

  5. Again you twist your answers. I make what I expect on Fish Fries without being a union member. Then why should I pay union dues and join when The seniority clause give all the non fish fry shifts (banquets) to the others and I get to maybe work one that they do want because it will not pay a high enough gratuity so if they are scheduled they call in sick or take a vacation day. No where near fair. From what I hear management is not trying to bust or force the union out they are trying to get a modified contract that will fix the above issues then I and others would have incentive to join. As it is now it only benefits those few remaining. yes its my choice but the scheduling needs to be fair so everyone can make a living. We do not need another closing because of unsolved union issues. Sounds like it did not work well for Hostess, 18,000 jobs lost.

    1. Yes, I also caught the similarities between Hostess and Serb Hall, both with overpaid executives trying to drain the workers dry while increasing their own pay.

      Well, that's what the NLRB is there for and I'm sure they will correct the illegal actions being taken by management.