After an unsuccessful union vote at Vikre Distillery, some workers now are simply looking forward.
“It sucks to lose, but I’m hopeful for the future,” said Brandon Hartung, a front-of-house worker at Vikre who was one of the leadership group in the push for unionization.
“With Duluth banking on a tourist economy, you’re not going to have fewer front-of-house workers,” he said. “My hope is that people recognize the power they have in the industry. I definitely think more people will be looking at it and if they come together, they can ask for more.”
Anders Bloomquist, an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 17, said he’s spent the time since the vote checking in with the organizing committee and making sure there hasn’t been any quiet retaliation.
“There’s still not a clear picture on exactly what happened,” he said of the vote. “In April we went in with 70 percent of people we believe were eligible signing cards and got a date set.” Weeks later, the union lost in the NLRB election.
He added that he hoped working conditions improved for Vikre workers. “Many people had shared deep concerns about the ability to have a stable workplace situation at Vikre, and we’re hoping management heard that,” he said.
Hartung, who has been a member of and been on the bargaining committee for Teamsters 320 while working at the University of Minnesota, said there was a group of workers who, through tenure or friendship, were closer to management, and who in the may have pulled the vote down.
“I hope to see some changes in the working environment regarding concerns shared by many workers,” he said. “I don’t believe this outcome is a failure, I looking forward to organizers continuing to help service industry workers in this region. I’m proud industry workers in Duluth came together and took the step toward unionization. A lot of people will say they support unions generally, but when it comes to their doorstep, it’s interesting how people can talk themselves into a corner about how they don’t need a union.”