Boathouse management’s faulty arithmetic and logic

NYHTC — August 28, 2011



97 out of 140 permanent Boathouse employees (69%) have voted for the union, with their feet, by picketing the restaurant. That includes 37 permanent workers who were illegally (i.e., temporarily) fired, whom the National Labor Relations Board intends to reinstate, and 60 more permanent employees who walked off the job in solidarity with their fired co-workers.

Last week, Boathouse management asked temporary scabs working inside the restaurant (while the majority of permanent employees were outside on strike) to sign a paper entitled "Boathouse employees not interested in the union." Management then sent that so-called "petition" to the union. There are 140 Boathouse employees. There were 70 signatures on that paper. Boathouse management announced that 70% of the employees signed it. How Dean Poll calculated that 70 · 140 = 70% is a mystery. The number of 70 claimed petition signers was also quite a bit inflated, artificially. Of those 70 signatures, 3 belong to managers, 12 to people who were hired during the last 3 weeks to replace strikers, 12 to people hired to replace illegally fired employees (after the union filed its NLRB election petition), and 3 were duplicate signatures. The 24 replacements have all been told by management that they are temporary employees who will be fired at the end of the current busy season. By law, and logic, temporary employees, hired to replace unlawfully terminated workers and strikers, do not have any say in determining whether the permanent employees have a right to be represented by a union. Surprisingly, there were many scabs currently working whom management failed to get to sign the "petition," even though they will be displaced when the union wins the strike. So, the actual percentage of permanent Boathouse workers who signed the "petition" was 29%.

70% of Boathouse workers signed union cards and petitioned for an election in January. Dean Poll then proceeded to fire 26% of the Boathouse workforce, coincidentally, almost all of them were union supporters. Except in a few cases, Poll did not even try to argue that the fired employees had done anything wrong. He has continuously conducted a campaign of threats, intimidation, and spying on the remaining employees. Boathouse workers have signed dozens of affidavits under oath supporting these charges, and many of those statements are substantiated by audio recordings.

Poll has even stooped to exploiting and threatening a large group of recently released parolees whom he has put to work as strikebreakers. Some of those workers even had the courage to join the strikers on the picket line, and testify at the NLRB, after witnessing conditions firsthand at the Boathouse.

The Federal Government has conducted a long and thorough investigation of the unfair labor practice charges filed against Boathouse management. It has concluded that a clear majority of the workers have elected to be represented by the union, and that Boathouse management has committed many flagrant and heinous violations of federal law against its employees. The NLRB has also announced its intention to prosecute the Boathouse for these illegal acts, by issuing a complaint - the labor law equivalent of a criminal indictment - against Boathouse management, and seeking an order certifying that the union represents the Boathouse workers.

As union president Peter Ward told the press, "Dean Poll's idea of democracy is that he has the right to eliminate the voters of his choice, and hold a gun to the heads of the survivors. That's not democracy. That's dictatorship."

In addition to committing massive violations of his employees' legal rights, Dean Poll has cheated New York City (which owns the Boathouse) out of more than $600,000, by falsely reporting the restaurant's revenues. He has repeatedly obtained very bad scores on Health Department inspections. The latest of these found the sewage disposal system in disrepair or not functioning properly, "evidence" of live mice, and filth flies in the kitchen, and the inability even to keep cold and hot food at proper temperatures. An audit by the City revealed that Poll dishonestly charged banquet customers more than $3 million in gratuities for servers and bartenders, which the company instead pocketed. Poll even charges customers $8 a bottle for filtered municipal tap water after offering them a choice between "tap water" and "bottled water."

Dean Poll's defenders (a few individuals and media entities) have inexplicably turned a blind eye to all the evidence of Poll's illegal behavior, and his dishonest and dirty business practices. They apparently believe even the worst business man should be given free rein to extract profits from valuable city property, no matter how badly he behaves toward his employees, the taxpayers, and the general public. Fortunately, however, they represent a small minority.

The Boathouse strikers are very grateful for the remarkable support we have received from the public. So many customers have honored the boycott that, in a recent letter to the union, management's attorney complained his client's business has sustained "untold damage." Many elected officials have spoken out strongly in support of the strike, and thousands of postcards and emails have been sent by supporters from all over the world to ask Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to enforce Dean Poll's contractual obligations. We are confident the City will do what is right, and we believe the Boathouse workers will win a just settlement.