Pickwick restaurant settles with the Union

On Monday, Sept. 21, at around 11:30 a.m., the Pickwick Restaurant agreed to settle with the union, and re-hire the workers it had illegally fired for union activity.

This huge victory came on the heals of 12 grueling weeks of daily picketing by Workers United Local 99 – the region’s hospitality workers’ union.

The labor dispute began earlier this summer when contract negotiations between Local 99 and Pickwick owner Chris Wisocki broke down. Despite the fact that the Pickwick has been union for 85 years, it became very clear early on that Wisocki was determined to end that by busting out the union. When Local 99 began doing informational leafletting and picketing to alert the public of this, Wisocki fired two of his workers, Sandy and CJ, for exercising their right to picket – despite the fact that it is clearly illegal to fire workers for union activity.

These firings sparked a union sponsored boycott of the restaurant backed up by daily pickets, as well as charges being filed against the Pickwick with the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB, after two months, finally handed down its ruling in early September. It found 100 percent with the union – ruling that the firing of Sandy and CJ was illegal, and demanding that they be re-instated with full back pay. It also found that the Pickwick had illegally imposed its own unilateral contract on its employees, revoked recognition of the union – and that it was stealing from its employees by collecting union dues from them for the past three months but failing to turn the dues over to the union.

The NLRB declared that it would take the Pickwick to federal court to force compliance with its ruling. Facing mounting legal costs, and with business visibly affected by the daily union pickets, the restaurant caved – agreeing to re-hire Sandy and CJ, and signing a document declaring their intent to come back to the table and negotiate a new contract in good faith with Local 99.

This is a huge victory not only for Local 00, but for labor and for hospitality workers throughout the region. And it was a victory that couldn’t have been won without the dozens of activists from AFSCME, the Building Trades, the Northland Anti-War Coalition, Socialist Action and other organizations that regularly and consistently walked the Local 99 pickets throughout this whole labor dispute.

What happens next remains to be seen. Hopefully the Pickwick and Local 99 will be able to successfully negotiate a new contract. If the Pickwick fails to do so however, the pickets will go back up. Union supporters are urged to be prepared to hit the streets again if need be. We’ve shown that labor solidarity is alive and well in the Northland, and that it has the power to succeed!

The article above was written by Adam Ritscher. For more info about the labor struggle at the Pickwick, or about progressive activism in general in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, check out the newly launched Northern Worker blog.



about 15 years ago

Excellent.  I'm so happy to hear this. Solidarity!


about 15 years ago

Woohoo! Solidarity works!


about 15 years ago

excellent news.


about 15 years ago

A union restaurant?  I worked my way through college as a waiter and a bartender and have never heard of such a thing.  How many restaurants in Duluth have union affiliations?

Tony Ramone

about 15 years ago

This is great news. It looks like the good guys (the union workers) won.

Bad Cat!

about 15 years ago

Awesome! I guess some business owner figured out that you can't completly screw over your employees and get away with it...


about 15 years ago

Would you really want to go back to work and be, if not hated, at least despised by management?


about 15 years ago

in response to the question about unionized restaurants, the entire radisson work force, including its restaurant, is unionized, i believe. i'm not sure about any others. anybody know?

congrats to the pickwick workers!!!


about 15 years ago

It would be nice to hear what Chris Wisocki has to say to these charges of "stealing from employees". Overly biased, anti-management pieces of propaganda like this turn me off completely from the labor union. I am a restaurant worker and see little need for unionization. These servers should consider themselves lucky.

Tim K

about 15 years ago

If you sign a contract, both parties must abide by the terms of the contract. It's a simple concept.


about 15 years ago

I'm pretty sure the Hacienda del Sol is unionized as is the entire Holiday Inn/Sneaker's/Porter's/Greenery business.


about 15 years ago

Tim K,

Your absolutely right about the legal factor.  I think -- could be wrong -- that Msy was saying that there's really no need for a (an) union contract in the food service industry.  People that want to staple themselves to a piece of paper works IMHO for other industries and other age groups, and on top of that the severance from the union cost for the business (not just monetary) seems to be high from what I've been hearing.  This little Pick incident is a good demonstration of that.  Pun intended.


about 15 years ago

I like Adam and consider him a buddy.  And, by way of disclosure, I am a restaurant owner.  But there is a LOT (!) to this story that is untold.

Joel Kilgour

about 15 years ago

These aren't "charges" any more, Msy. The NLRB administers labor law in the US, and its ruling was unambiguous. 

And with respect, huitz, this incident is a good demonstration of the need for unions in low-wage industries. There is a huge and growing population of working poor who have no choice but to take these jobs, and they deserve a fair deal. The base of the Pickwick union is long-time servers who gave years or decades to the restaurant. Even under a union contract they were making minimum wage, for Pete's sake, but the union was able to win them some not unreasonable benefits. Had there been no union when Chris came a-purging (the contract and older workers, that is), what then?


about 15 years ago

I can't say i'm surprised to learn that Chris was "stealing" union dues from his employees. I used to work in the kitchen at Pickwick back in the day when Chris was just a manager and he constantly treated his employees poorly. On more than one account he yelled at me so badly it made me cry. And I wasn't the only woman that happened to.

I worry that he's going to ruin the restaurant's reputation. It's a shame.


about 15 years ago

I read a quote from Chris Wisocki's uncle, and former owner, that was very telling.  He basically said that management has gotten along with the unions for 85 years. But now all of a sudden its an issue, what's changed.  Do the math.


about 15 years ago

Jen, Hacienda is not unionized.


about 15 years ago

Those workers were never fired.  I work at the Pickwick and Sandy and CJ were never fired.  They just wanted the publicity. Congrats to all of you for eating a big bowl of shit.


about 15 years ago

Is there a vegetarian option for that?


about 15 years ago

Minnesota is one of 7 states without a tip credit law, meaning any employee who collects tips and is paid minimum wage, makes well more than minimum wage.  Considering tips are 15-20 percent of the bill and the Pickwick is not known for having low prices, the waitstaff makes well above minimum wage.


about 15 years ago

Hacienda is not union, but the Reef, Twins Bar, T-Bonz and Rustic Bar are.


about 15 years ago

I am an ex-Pickwick employee that left BECAUSE OF THE UNION - it didn't suit my needs and discouraged my employment.  

While the union does protect the workers that have been there for years, it deters potential new, good hires.  It forces rules that mostly benefit full-time employees and deters part-timers.  

Let's face it, full-time serving in the food & beverage industry is a thing of the past - except in union establishments.  To keep a large hiring pool, you need to have flexible shifts - its ok to have several part-time employees in this industry - it works and has its own benefits!  

It is hard as a business owner to differentiate between new hires since he doesn't have many options... the POTENTIALLY TALENTED part-timers go & are hired elsewhere while [often though not always] POOR-SERVICING service is hired full-time because no other options are available due to the decreased hiring pool.

I appreciate the staff at the Pickwick.  I am not trying to say they have poor service - though in any restaurant there are a few.  I am saying it deters potential NEW good service after current employees leave or quit. 

Issues due to poor service:

How can a business compete with other local businesses that are allowed to hire and fire whomever they please?

How is a business owner to keep his business alive in an ever-changing world - and so ever changing clientele with new demands?  

Other issues:

Historic clientele (and employees) and patronage are EXTREMELY important, but so is attracting the new wants and desires of a younger generation (new employees with a new perspective - gone to be hired elsewhere).  It is necessary to be new everyday to keep a business like this alive.  

How does he please everybody: new and old?


about 15 years ago

Ignorance is bliss...

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