Surly announces hall closure after union drive

Early last week, the hospitality and kitchen staff of Surly Beer Hall and Pizza Upstairs in Minneapolis marched on the boss and demanded a union.
“Before reopening in June, we voiced concerns about our safety regarding the new counter-service model,” the organizing committee said in a statement. “Despite our efforts, changes were only made after Mayor Frey announced an emergency regulation forbidding guests from ordering at bar areas. Additionally, we were misled regarding the distribution of a new service charge, as well as the availability of benefits to returning employees.
The service charge of 15% was added to the tabs and were implied to be a form of relief during the pandemic, but instead their wages were reduced.
“In a time of uncertainty, our demands include open conversations and mutual transparency,” the committee statement said. “As dedicated employees, we deserve a say in changes that affect our compensation, health insurance, and employment. Unite Surly Workers is inviting leadership to recognize our unionization effort in order to create a more equitable and collaborative workplace.”
Two days later, Surly announced it would be closing the hall in November.
“The timing of this announcement is not ideal,” the company said in what might be excused as an understatement. “On Monday, some hospitality employees notified us of their intent to unionize. We respect their decision to turn to an outside organization for representation and will continue the dialogue.
“That does not change the fact that our plans to close the Beer Hall were put in place weeks ago with the announcement planned for this week.”
Referring to unions as an “outside organization” is a classic union-busting move employers make during organizing campaigns, as well as referring to unions as “third-party” influencers.
Word of the layoffs spread over social media and many Surly workers said that was the first they heard of the closing.
“We have not before heard mention of a closure come fall, and new hires have started as recently as this week,” the organizing committee responded on Twitter. “Say it with me: Union busting!!”
UNITE HERE 17 described the closure as retaliation for union organizing.
Workday Minnesota contributed to this report.

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