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Pabst Theater Group part-time employees want to unionize

Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality workers union
Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization
Part-time employees from the Pabst Theater Group held a press conference outside of The Riverside Theater announcing their next steps after the Pabst Theater Group rejected to recognize their union.

Part-time employees from the Pabst Theater Group want to unionize.

The Pabst Theater Group, or PTG, promotes and operates at five venues in Milwaukee including the Riverside Theater, Turner Hall Ballroom and now the Miller High Life Theatre. Part-time employees work across all of these venues and are calling on the Pabst Theater Group to recognize their union.

Earlier this month, they voiced their intention to organize but PTG rejected the employee’s request and are now taking the decision to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Peter Rickman is the president of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization. He's working in collaboration with part-time Pabst Theater Group employees to get their union authorization recognized.

Rickman says, "The Pabst Theater Group workers, who have formed their union with an overwhelming clear strong majority of 80%-plus, saying they want to union, they want to contract now."

Service workers in general, he says, have faced long-standing challenges such as being denied a voice and a seat at the table, earning less than living wages and aren't provided with health insurance and retirement benefits.

Those employers are now the ones confronting the fact that workers are in short supply, Rickman points out.

Kayli, an event lead at the Pabst Theater Group, adds that she really loves her job and the biggest goal of the union is for the voice of her coworkers and herself to be heard.

Kayli notes that it can be hard communicating with staff from top to bottom, and sometimes the communication between beginner workers and higher-ups is lacking.

"I really want to stress that none of us blame our managers, we don't blame our bosses, we genuinely love everything about PTG. We love our managers, we just really, really want it to be more equal for all of us," she says.

Despite the rejection of the union from PTG, she expects that the workers will win the election with the NLRB because they feel so passionate about it.

Rickman continues that it's an unfortunate fact that American labor law leaves the choice about recognizing the union in the hands of the employer.

Workers are going to be the ones that ultimately have the decision in this, he contends. "Workers are turning to unions as the way to address the challenges, the frustrations, the hassles that they have with their work. We see it with Starbucks, workers united across the country. There's like a dozen new Starbucks locations where workers are organizing the union every day it feels like, including here in Wisconsin," says Rickman.

WUWM reached out to the Pabst Theater Group for comment, they responded with: "The Pabst Theater Group received the union's request for voluntary recognition. We feel that the best way to determine whether a majority of employees desire to be represented by the union is through a free and fair secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in accordance with the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. We have respectfully declined the union’s invitation to bypass that election procedure and have asked the union to file a petition with the NLRB to request an election. Our company has a long history of working with unions and we are committed to honoring the results of an election certified by the NLRB.”

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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