Graham Kilmer

Bounce Milwaukee Guarantees Union For Employees

Labor agreement with Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH) guarantees representation.

By - Aug 6th, 2021 08:20 pm
August 6, 2021 press conference at Bounce Milwaukee. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

August 6, 2021 press conference at Bounce Milwaukee. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Most of the time, workers have to organize and fight for union representation. But a popular family-friendly entertainment venue has announced that it is turning that dynamic upside down, and will instead guarantee its employees with union representation.

Bounce Milwaukee, located at 2801 S. 5th Ct., announced at a press conference Friday it had signed an agreement with the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH), a labor union that represents the service sector employees at the Milwaukee BucksFiserv Forum.

State Senator Chris Larson and State Representative Jonathan Brostoff both attended the press conference Friday to show support for the new agreement.

The entertainment venue is owned and operated by Becky Cooper along with husband Ryan Clancy, of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. Bounce has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Milwaukee in March 2020. The business is planning to reopen soon and is currently staffing up.

“We’ve wanted to unionize for years,” Cooper said. “And the pandemic gave us the time and the opportunity to do things right.”

Typically, it’s workers organizing that brings a union into the workplace. In the case of Bounce, the owners actively courted a union for their employees.

The labor agreement between MASH and Bounce Milwaukee guarantees that the entertainment venues employees will work under a union contract and have access to union representation.

One employee, Pam Spingola, spoke at the press conference Friday. A veteran of the service industry, she praised Cooper and Clancy as bosses at Bounce. “This agreement that bounce has made with MASH and unionizing is really the best step forward for the industry and the employees here,” she said.

The labor agreement also includes a provision that states Bounce and MASH will work together to bring on employees. Peter Rickman, president of MASH, said the organization would be launching a digital hiring hall on its website, where workers can go to find employment.

“We’re looking forward to working with MASH to help us screen and source excellent employees,” Cooper said, adding that approximately 20% of Bounce’s employees from before the pandemic shutdown have committed to returning once the business reopens.

Fully staffed, Bounce has between 20 and 25 employees, Cooper said.

Rickman called the labor agreement between Bounce and Mash a “landmark” agreement, and praised Cooper and Clancy for “charting the course forward” at a time when “fundamentally, systemically the service and hospitality industry labor markets are utterly broken.”

Rickman said that the trouble many businesses are having with hiring isn’t a worker shortage and it’s not because of unemployment benefits, instead it’s because workers are choosing to leave an industry that has a track record of underpaying and poorly treating them.

“What we’re seeing right now is the bartenders and baristas, the cooks and the cashiers and the cleaners… are staging what amounts to a low grade general strike,” he said. “Folks are saying we’re not going to work, we’re withholding our labor.”

Rickman said Bounce and the agreement with MASH was a new strategy for addressing the challenging labor market, by guaranteeing that employees will have representation and a voice in their workplace. 

“We know an employer driving for unionization is nearly unprecedented, not just in the service industry, but in any industry,” Cooper said. “But we’ve never shied away from creating new precedents and breaking old systems.”

Categories: Business, Economics, Weekly

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