More airport workers organize; Minneapolis bartenders seek union


UPDATED 11/10/2011: Some 103 workers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have joined UNITE HERE Local 17, while bartenders employed by the Historic Theatre Group in downtown Minneapolis also are seeking representation, the union reported. The airport restaurant employees, who work for SSP America, recently organized through majority sign-up.

High turnover among the local airport restaurant workers presented a challenge, said Martin Goff, senior vice president for Local 17. At one point in the two-year organizing effort, Goff said, the union had almost as many signed cards from workers who had come and gone as signed cards from workers still on payroll.

Ultimately, the organizing drive succeeded. “We had a really good committee,” Goff noted.

Both parties agreed to an arbitrator, retired federal mediator Steve Lucht, who verified Oct. 12 that a majority of the eligible workers in the unit had signed union authorization cards.

SSP America’s operations at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport’s main terminal include a food court, located on the main concourse near Gate 3, and Houlihan’s restaurant, located in the ticketing lobby in a pre-security area.

A majority of the bartenders at the three downtown theatres managed by the Historic Theatre Group also have signed union authorization cards, Goff reported. Local 17 has asked the Historic Theatre Group to agree to the selection of a third party to verify the card count.

The 28 workers in the unit are on-call bartenders at the Orpheum, State, and Pantages Theatres, all located on Hennepin Ave. in downtown Minneapolis.

The workers organized and collected authorization cards on their own, Goff noted. He said their concerns include compensation issues, scheduling, and safety issues.

The three theatres are owned by the nonprofit Hennepin Theatre Trust, which contracts with the Historic Theatre Group to manage daily operations.

This article is adapted from reports in The Minneapolis Labor Review.