Monday, May 19, 2008

Capitalism in miniature

Typically, I try not to be regional with my news, but this is an exception. In Northeast Wisconsin there's a popular pizzeria called "Sammy's Pizza" located next to the legendary Lambeau Field. Their pizza, to put it mildly, is a staple of the area. People love Sammy's. However, recently I've learned this business has been steadily raising their menu prices (even before $100-plus barrels of oil) and slashing workers' benefits and wages, all the while the owners purchase gaudy jewelry and buy some of the most gorgeous mansions in the wealthiest neighborhoods.

This information comes from my brother, an employee of Sammy's Pizza for 7 years. He discovered the company hired a person two months prior and had been given a higher wage than him. He confronted his boss.

Now, Sammy's employees do not get health or dental insurance. They only receive a week of vacation regardless of how long they've worked for the company (in some cases, just under two decades) and management steals a portion of the waitress' tips. My brother demanded an adequate increase in his wage along with an extra week of vacation. The boss refused, resorting to intimidation. He pointed to a stack of applications and told my brother he was replaceable. This is untrue, and the manager knew it. Over the course of 7 years my brother had been training new employees, became the night lock-up manager, became one of only a handful of trusted employees who were allowed to make Sammy's famous sauce, obtained his bartending license and had only called in sick once. Still, the boss refused to meet his demands. According to the manager, he was buying a commodity (my brother's labor) and wasn't going to get anything more from a wage increase. The problem, clearly, to even the most cynical observer is that Sammy's needed to catch up to my brother's acquired skills and compensate him for those skills.

This is far from Sammy's first time using worker intimidation. On at least one occasion the manager had shouted across the kitchen that every worker was expendable. Another time, an employee of over 10 years had bought a restaurant of her own. When she told management about her business venture and gave them her two week notice they fired her on the spot saying she was now "the competition". The next day when a local newspaper ran a story about the ex-employee's new restaurant Sammy's clipped every mention of the new business out of each issue.

Between high prices and low wages the family who owns Sammy's lives handsomely off their profits. They own some of the finest jewelry, flashiest cars and choicest property. On the other hand, my brother had been sick for two days before confronting his boss. He told his boss in a moment of complete candor that he couldn't afford to see a doctor on the meager health insurance he was forced to buy due to the pittance the company paid. This did not change the manager's mind. My brother was offered one last deal. He would be promoted to supervisor only if he would conduct surveillance on all the other employees. Let the owners know if anyone steals or isn't working hard enough. My brother denied the offer and turned in his two week notice.

Moments after leaving the manager's office my brother started letting every employee at Sammy's know how badly they are being treated. Four more people are quitting in the following weeks, leaving only one longtime worker left. Everyone who lives in Northeast Wisconsin, I urge you not to tolerate this type of draconian labor practices. Let Sammy's Pizza know you have solidarity with these workers. And please do not patronize their restaurant any longer.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

love it love it love it =)