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The Union and Me

After working for the Radisson for about 5 years I decided to make a change, it was time to move on. I quit my job and moved to Las Vegas - the city of sin. I moved in with my mother to save money - and a week later I moved back to Rochester, MN. After I returned from moving to Las Vegas for a week, I needed a new job, and I didn't want to go back to the same old Radisson, I was moving forward. I had moved back into the house I rented with my roommate Kim. Now he didn’t have to search for a new roommate. Kim went to work early that day and talked to the restaurant manager, who then called me in for an interview.

I was hired on the spot, and started within a day or two. The job was as a waiter at the Greenhouse restaurant in the Kahler Grand Hotel. The Kahler was different from working at the Radisson mostly because it was a union shop, the Radisson had blocked every attempt to unionize. I hoped it would be a good change of pace, to be protected by a union.

The Union had rules to protect union jobs, but they had no desire to protect the safety of employees and guests from those union members. I got yelled at by the stewards, on more than one instance where I’d clean up a fresh spill right away so nobody would slip and fall. The Union insisted that I leave the slippery spill, call the janitorial department, and wait an eternity for someone to finish their break and spread the spill out over a wide enough area that we might be less likely to slip. An engineer would then come to put up a sign, sometimes well after the spill had been properly spread out over a wide area. This was, and still is, nuts in my book! That type of behavior only served to create more work. The union was only in business to create as many dues paying members as possible.

The Greenhouse had a great working atmosphere, the people that worked there took me in as a colleague and as a friend. There was my roommate Kim, Chico - the Indian who liked to call alcohol "Fire Water", and a few others. One of the managers even hung around our group, his name was Al. A few months after I started at the Greenhouse Al transferred from supervisor of our restaurant to manager of room service. Soon after the transfer Al told Kim and I that he needed to hire a new guy. He even asked if I was interested. I had done my share of room service, so I declined, but helped out when needed. I did, however, suggest Lee for the job. Lee was an old friend, who recently quit his night job at Kinkos.

Lee made it fun to game the Union. We were both basically conservative and disliked the union’s political activities. We started attending meetings to learn more about the union. They had drawings every meeting for prizes and other stuff. One month Lee won a month of free dues, another month I won a gift certificate. Not many members showed up to meetings, so we won more than our share of stuff.

During one particular meeting there was talk of a special meeting in Chicago. They needed member representation from various departments of the hotel. Lee and I signed up for room service and the Green House restaurant departments respectively. Time went on and we were a week from the big trip, to be paid in full by Union dues. We planned to party like rock stars, all on the union dollar. I wonder how much trouble we would have gotten ourselves into?

One of the guys I worked with was a steward for the union and asked why I was needed time off. I made something up, but he had already known I was selected for this special union conference. He was fuming mad that I had made it through the screening process and was going to Chicago to represent our union. I knew the gig was up. He would have Lee and I removed from the conference and promptly replaced by pro-union mooks. When he continued to carry on like a baby.

I told him,

"You should have attended those meetings to represent us like you were paid to do! Paid for by me, as a dues paying member of this Union."

Lee and I stayed behind, and a couple pinhead robotic stewards went in our place.

One big reason I didn’t like our union was the political contributions to the Democratic Party. Lee felt the same way, he was a Republican and I'm a recovering Libertarian. That year the AFL/CIO, of which our union was a member of, donated $30 million to the Democrat Party to defeat Republicans. This really steamed me, knowing my dues were used to back ideas I didn't believe in.

A month or two later, I spotted a union clause on the web and printed it out. I showed it to Al the room service manager, he called the Food & Beverage director, who showed the General Manager. The clause said members could appeal to the union to get their share of that $30 million back from the union. It was for members that objected to the political donation. The refund was based on dues paid, longevity, and position held at the hotel. The F&B director wanted my permission to have it posted on all company bulletin boards. The company boards were next to the union boards, only the company bulletin boards were locked behind Plexiglas so unionists wouldn’t damage them, then call the department of labor to complain they didn't have the proper legal postings.

Thing was, it cost the union more money to calculate how much to refund most members than they actually had to refund. It was kept secret who reported the loophole to management causing it to be posted. This was to keep me safe from hostile union members and union thugs. Soon after the posting, hundreds of unionists requested their share of the money back. Not because they disagreed with the Democrat Party or the donation, they just wanted money. That posting that was causing all of this had to cost our local union some really big dollars, not to mention a degree of embarrassment from the regional or national union leadership. The union wanted blood for whomever sold them out!

Back to Al, he had a problem with one employee. Rea always showed up late, did a poor job, and was the cause of frequent customer complaints. She was a slug of a human being both physically and mentally. Rea’s job was to answer the phone, take room service orders, and assist the actual room service people with setting up tables and trays. She was usually hanging out in the break room, or being rude to the guests, whenever calls came in. The guys in room service were actually happier when she was hiding in the break room not answering the phone.

One evening Lee watched the most heinous dastardly act she could do in the hotel. He watched her get a spoon, walk over to the fridge, and grab the container of cottage cheese. She proceeded to dip the spoon and eat from it three times, then put the cottage cheese contain back into the fridge. She must have needed to restock the cottage cheese in her thighs? Lee removed and marked the cottage cheese container, so nobody would eat from it ever again. Lee reported the infraction to Al. That night, over cocktails, Lee told this story to Kim and me, with Al in attendance.

Al wrote the incident up the next day, with Lee as witness. The write-up was about her violation of health code and Kahler policy. She could have easily spread the hundreds of diseases she has, through her actions. We assumed she had more diseases than that monkey from Outbreak.

Al was called up to the corporate office, so they could explain the situation. Rea had a gigantic file of write-ups, and the hotel had tried to fire her on several times before. The union would file grievance after grievance, and sue to stop the hotel from terminating her employment with the hotel. No matter what disease she spread or health code she violated the union would protect her at all costs and thereby putting every other employee and guest in harm's way from catching her diseases. Their goal was to protect this union member at any cost, despite violations to public health, or the jeopardy she put the hotel in. The Kahler could lose its food license, if a health inspector had seen her actions. Then what would all the union members do?

They all went through the procedures, and it went down the same way again. The hotel didn’t have the balls to press the issue, and the union knew it. The hotel also didn’t want to spend the money it would take to defend itself. Rea won the battle - again. She lived to work and spread diseases to unsuspecting patrons and employees for another day.

Al, Kim, Lee and I were having drinks a few days after the hotel gave up, and Al tells us all of the trouble with Rea. He told us how the hotel lost its nerve to fight the issue, and how he didn't even want to manage the department with her and her antics. He felt he could be liable as manager is anything happened; like her spreading disease to a customer who then sues. Over a picture of beer, or two, we hatched a plan to get rid of Rea.

A few days later Rea shows up to work, late like any other day. Al walks up, and just asked her to quit and make everybody happy.

She declines saying,

“You can’t do anything to me, the union is protecting me.”

She threatened to file another grievance because Al asked her to quit. Al waits around the room service area and watches things for a while, until he gets a page and leaves.

Al returns a few minutes later with a cop! The cop takes his time asking who everybody is, especially Rea. The he tells her he is there to issue her a ticket for theft-of-product. You see, Rea had never paid for the cottage cheese she consumed. The cop goes on to explain how it would be a misdemeanor, resulting in her having to appear in court for her plea. The ticket would remain on her permanent record because she was an adult (though a very slow adult, I wonder if she knew Brian)? If she were to seek other work another employer may review her police record, and see the theft of product from the Kahler. Potential future employers could refrain from hiring her, all because of her theft of cottage cheese at the Kahler.

Rea started to cry, then pleaded the cop to not write the ticket. The cop explained he cannot stop because he already started writing the ticket. He said his tickets are numbered, and he was accountable for all of them. After more begging, pleading, and crying the cop says if Al can be persuaded to drop the charges he would tear up the ticket.

Rea cries to Al that she’d do anything to not have this ticket. Al says, “Anything?”

Al then pulls a document from his blazer and asks Rea to read it. Basically it said she was going to quit, forfeit all rights to her job, and never set foot on Kahler property again.

She refused, and the cop said,

“No problem, I have the ticket half written!”

Finally she relents and signs the document. She leaves the hotel, and Al takes the document up to the CEO. Al had gone behind the corporate officers to the corporate attorney to have the document prepared properly. On his way out the lawyer had even asked what Al’s plan was.

Al said,

“You don’t want to know, just make sure this document is ironclad.”

Al was very appreciated, as the hotel had Rea at the top of their list of trouble employees. I think the top officers were ready to throw a party at the idea of getting rid of her. Al had accomplished what the hotel had failed at for years. Al never took all the credit, as the plan was hatched at the bar next door. The rest of us were called up and quietly praised. They always kept stuff like this quiet so the union wouldn’t try to come down on us.