Sunday, December 22, 2013

Serb Hall Versus Solidarity

As long time readers of this here blog know, there had been a labor struggle going on at Serb Hall in Milwaukee,  The new management at Serb Hall wanted to throw away their long standing tradition of being the best known unionized restaurant in Southeast Wisconsin in order to squeeze a few more bucks of profit for themselves.  So they began mistreating their workers and bargaining in bad faith with them.

When we learned of the news, Randy Bryce of Ironworkers Local 8 and I felt we had to do something to show our support for the workers. But instead of the usual ways, like holding an informational rally in front of the restaurant, we wanted something more unique.  And thus was the beginning of the Solidarity Fish Fry.

The response we received when we came out with this idea was nothing short of phenomenal.  We had dozens of people coming each week, specifically asking for a union server and waiting if one was not available.

We had supporters come from all over Wisconsin and at least one support come all the way from England.  We even got a little national coverage for our unique way of showing support for the union workers.

We knew we were getting our message through to management because they kept trying to sabotage our efforts.  They would berate the union staff publicly.  The would berate their customers coming to support the union workers.  They would lie to people and try to seat them in non-union tables and telling them that they were indeed unions.

But we kept coming to show our support.

Despite the strong message we were sending, Serb Hall still kept maltreating their staff and bargaining in bad faith.  Even getting punished by the National Labor Relations Board was not enough to deter their greed (and to think that they are supposed to be affiliated with a church!).

But even then, we kept coming.

Finally, after six months, management sabotaged the contract negotiations and declared an impasse.  Management refused to return to the bargaining table.

So we stopped coming.

If Serb Hall wouldn't return to the bargaining table, we weren't going to return to their tables.

As Serb Hall continued to break the unions, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, which had held their monthly meetings there for years and years and years, decided that they too were done with Serb Hall.  On December 4, MALC held their last meeting there.

Not only will there be no more Solidarity Fish Fries or Labor Council meetings, but there will be no more union retirement or holiday parties or other union-related events there either.

This past Friday, as the fates would allow, was the first time that I happened to be near Serb Hall on a Friday night.  I was curious to see how they were faring now that the unions took a stronger showing of solidarity against them.  This is what I saw:

The place was dead.  Being the Friday before Christmas, one might have thought they'd be packed with holiday party goers or people just going out for a fish fry, not wanting to cook anything big before the holidays.  Instead, they were lucky if there were more than 20 cars in the parking lot.

I wonder how their profit margin is looking now.

On a final note, when I shared the news with Randy, he was so elated at this show of solidarity that - you guessed it - he had to just dance with joy:

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