From today’s Denver Post:
Anna McGee has hit a wall. So has her boss.
A 26-year-old front-of-the-house worker at Denver’s Mercury Cafe, McGee joined other employees last month to demand that owner Danny Newman institute changes to what she calls “dehumanizing working conditions” at the Five Points restaurant, including low pay, unpredictable schedules, and an unsafe environment.
Newman doesn’t see it that way. He’s already making efforts to improve working conditions, he said. And there’s no money for big raises, as the business — a focal point of Denver’s poetic arts scene for more than three decades — hasn’t yet turned a profit since he bought it two years ago.
“Danny’s been transparent about that,” McGee acknowledged. “We came back to him and said, ‘We’ll wait five more months for contract negotiations,’ which is what he was asking for, ‘but you have to voluntarily recognize our workers collective.’ ”
He has chosen not to. Nearly everything in the workers’ demands is already part of Denver or Colorado law — or something he was already working on, Newman said.
“I’ve had to do a lot of research in trying to figure out what this looks like at the most micro scale with a single owner and a handful of employees,” said Newman, an entrepreneur who has been lauded for buying and “saving” The Merc and the historic My Brother’s Bar. “These (challenging conditions) aren’t necessarily how it’s always been or how it’s going to be here.”
That hasn’t stopped a unionization drive that employees McGee, Katie Rayne and Nat Whitney are leading ahead of an Aug. 22 election. The potential union would include 10 to 12 members and operate under the Communications Workers of America. They also want safety training, since unhoused people living on the streets around the cafe have tried to attack them, requiring off-duty police presence, McGee said. (Newman has purchased tasers and mace, McGee added.)
There has been an explosion of union action like this across the country this year, extending far past the marquee strikes that taking place in Hollywood right now and into the world of delivery drivers, auto workers, bartenders and stagehands.
Read the complete story here.