UNITE HERE launches boycott of Savoy Pizza

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The sauce may be good, but the owner is rotten – and that’s why UNITE HERE Local 17 said it has launched a boycott of Savoy Pizza, a longtime union shop.

Local 17 members distributed fliers about the boycott to hundreds of delegates attending the Minnesota AFL-CIO convention this week in St. Paul.

“We know their pizza sauce is good. We’ll miss not having it ourselves,” said Local 17 President Nancy Goldman. “But he (owner Red Savoy) is not worthy of our business. Why should union dollars support this guy?”

The Savoy, with about 44 employees, has been unionized since at least the early 1970s, the union said. Over the years, employees have come to enjoy benefits rare in the restaurant business, including higher pay, guaranteed pensions and good health care coverage.

“What other pizza place do you know that pays holiday and vacation pay?” asked Goldman.

The Savoy, located on E. Seventh St. at the edge of downtown St. Paul, has prospered over the decades, thanks in large part to the many unionized state employees who eat lunch there and the patronage of unions across the metro area.

It’s not unusual for a union that’s holding a meeting or other event to order dozens of pizzas, noted Martin Goff, Local 17’s director of organization.

When the most recent contract expired this spring, Local 17 bargained in good faith with management and employees ratified the agreement. But then Savoy balked and refused to sign the contract. A drive was begun among employees to decertify the union. Despite efforts to shore up support among employees, the union recently decided that the best thing to do was to disclaim interest – ending its representation – and launch the boycott.

It’s been a frustrating situation, Goldman and Goff said, who noted they believe the workers have “been sold a bill of goods” by Savoy, who brought in a lawyer from a union-busting law firm. The owner recently instituted a higher cost health plan for the workers and no longer provides any retirement plan.

“He’s putting the $26,000 he had been making in pension payments per year into his own pocket,” said Goff.

Local 17 has conducted informational picketing outside the Savoy. In the coming weeks, the union will hand out fliers at conventions and other events to publicize the boycott.

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