One server’s tale of the Republican National Convention

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Joy Anderson has always been skeptical of Republican priorities and policies, but her views were confirmed after a week as a banquet server for the Republican National Convention.

Anderson said she was busy round-the-clock this week at numerous lavish receptions and late-night parties in downtown Minneapolis. Her main job was making sure the food never ran out at the bountiful buffets held for Republican delegates by Wal-Mart, Blue Cross Blue Shield and many other members of the Fortune 500.

Ironically, no forks could be provided. (“That would imply the food was a meal, which would be a violation of federal law” against corporate lobbying, Anderson explained). But that didn’t stop the delegates from piling their plates high and continuing the corporate-funded eating and drinking into the wee hours of every morning.

Anderson, a 52-year-old Minneapolis native, is no newcomer to political spectacle. One of her first gigs was as a banquet server at a Minneapolis campaign event for Democrat Jimmy Carter, during his run for the presidency in 1976. But Anderson said she found the extent of the excess during this week’s Republican convention truly shocking, especially considering the state of the economy.

“It’s like they have money to burn,” Anderson said. She went without health insurance for years until getting coverage through UNITE HERE Local 17, the union representing hospitality workers in the Twin Cities. Her husband, a military veteran, also went for years without insurance, she said.

“People are out there working so hard and you are trying to keep a roof over your head,” she said. “We have to have an economy that works for everyone.”

Anderson said she has always been politically active, but her experience this week has prompted her to redouble her efforts to get all her co-workers registered to vote. On Election Day, she plans to volunteer to provide rides to the polls for seniors and other folks who need transportation.

“We have a lot to do to clean up after eight years of Bush-McCain policies,” Anderson said. “At least vote, if that’s the only thing you do.”

But surely there must have been a silver lining for workers like Anderson, with all the business created by having thousands of delegates and media – not to speak of out-of-state law enforcement – flood the Twin Cities this week?

That’s not what Local 17 President Nancy Goldman is hearing from her members, who work at many of the area’s hotels and restaurants. They report that regular patrons stayed away during the convention hoopla and tables sat empty due to cancelled events and no-shows.

Said Anderson of the Republican delegates she encountered: “They’re just the cheapest tippers.”