Sunday, February 3, 2013

Where The Customer Always Comes Last

This article is about the so-called "wildcat" strike described by Laura Gottesdiener in the current issue of Socialist Viewpoint. The immigrant (Mexican) staff won union representation at a New York City bakery called Hot & Crusty.

The villains include a venture capital firm (worth $700 million, but no context given), and the managing partner, a white South African (must be a really evil guy) who lived around the corner from the shop. Then there's a part for the restaurant's landlord.

The hero is an illegal Mexican immigrant by the name of Mahoma Lopez (photo here). Mr. Lopez reports that the workers were regularly mistreated--wages withheld, subjected to verbal abuse, and in general not employed in compliance with labor laws. Given that the employees were mostly illegal immigrants, this may very well be true.

So Mr. Lopez organized a campaign for higher wages and working conditions, with help from the National Labor Relations Board. The employees won back pay, but the response of the owners was simply to shut the store down. The workers staged a sit-in and gave away free food. At this point the landlord got involved--the owners hadn't paid the rent, and the workers hadn't vacated the premises.

The landlord had another tenant in the wings--a non-union firm unacceptable to the workers. And at this point things get murky. Some new investor materializes, recognizes the union and grants the workers much higher wages, sick pay, and grievance and arbitration procedures. More, there is now a union hiring hall--the union gets to decide who gets hired--not management.

So apparently Hot & Crusty is back in business in the same location under new rules: free unicorns for everybody. Everybody, that is, except for the customers, who presumably have to pay considerably more for their pastries, to be served by people hired by the union. This clearly isn't going to work long term.

So one wonders what persuaded management to go along with this scheme? The article doesn't say, and I have no other information. But somehow I suspect gangland style threats made against the landlord--the employees in the picture are burly guys instead of the dainty ladies in most fast-food establishments. There may be other explanations, but I can't think of one.

This is particularly ironic since Gottesdiener's article first appeared on a website called Waging Nonviolence. I have to think that the folks who run that website, along with my friends at Socialist Viewpoint, are useful idiots.


  1. How do you know the new owners aren't just making less profit instead of raising their prices?

  2. The margin in the restaurant business is pretty small. And the market in New York City is very competitive. Restaurant prices there are very, very cheap! The owners couldn't raise prices by more than a few percent, and then there'd be no reason for them to stay in the business at all. Why work that hard for no money?