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Kitchens Vs. Unions

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

My kitchen is in the union. Does anyone else feel my pain? There are 5 of us, my exec. chef included, that actually are passionate about food and are excited about it. But then there is the rest of the kitchen. No one else gives a damn.  They filed a grievance on my chef for COOKING!!! She stepped in and helped one of the cooks make sushi and the union said it was taking someones job away and whomever they said could have filled those hours got paid TO DO NOTHING!!! So now her hands are tied.

 

Coming from a restaurant background and now currently working at a university, I can't deal with it much longer. I hunger for new and exciting avenues of gastronomy. I feel the pirate ship that is the kitchen doesn't have room for unions. Don't get me wrong, I am pro union in certain places. Just not the kitchen. It's a rough and tumble place. 

 

I don't know, all I want to do is cook good food and make people happy.

post #2 of 18

Working in a union house is much more about management then hands on cooking. It is a good place to hone your management/HR skills and this kind of knowledge can be very usefull in your career. You just have to look at yourself as the one pushing the buttons to get the desired results.

Also really get to know the unions handbook as this can be a two edged sword but the more you understand it the better off you are! Also you can develop new dishes and menu items without being the grunt having to pump them out. Pros and cons but a good learning experience for sure.

Good Luck and remember you can always do a second job in a joint that inspires you also.......

The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #3 of 18

to me that sounds wacked.  the job of a chef is to do everything to make the kitchen run smoothly.  i am the chef of my kitchen and we have kitchen helpers to do prep and dishes.  if i see everyone is busy and dishes need to be done and i am not doing anything i will do the dishes.  it is what needs to be done at the time.  the union there does not understand the hospitality industry.  is every one in the university in the same union? i never cooked in Canada for a union shop but now in Austria all workers are in the same union.  and for a worker not a owner it is great.  i work 12 months and get paid for 14.  when starting work you get 5 weeks holiday.  the power of the union.  and the social government.  we all have the same union in Austria but each job will have its own contract.  and in my contract i have to do whatever it takes to make the kitchen run.  

post #4 of 18

Mike, you just discovered Unions.  This one is pretty typical--they'll fight Mngmt. no matter what, file grievences just because they don't like the colour of your hair.

 

There are good Unions out there, it's just that not many are representing food service workers.

 

Look, a good Union will set guidelines and standards for thier trade.  Then they will set pay rates for the standards.  Think plumbers, electricians, etc. Those unions even have a very large say in the curriculum of trade schools. By sheer coincidence, those trades pay upwards of $35/hr 

 

Now look at the hospitality industry:  No standards or benchmarks for what a Cook should be capable of, every school has a different qualification and course length, and the hospitality industry is one of the worst paid.

 

You will learn a lot about the HR side of things.  You will learn how to interpret the Union guidelines and the local labour codes.  You will learn never to talk to a Union member alone, you will learn that it is nearly impossible to fire a thief you caught red-handed. 

 

You just won't learn much about cooking

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

Mike, you just discovered Unions.  This one is pretty typical--they'll fight Mngmt. no matter what, file grievences just because they don't like the colour of your hair.

 

There are good Unions out there, it's just that not many are representing food service workers.

 

Look, a good Union will set guidelines and standards for thier trade.  Then they will set pay rates for the standards.  Think plumbers, electricians, etc. Those unions even have a very large say in the curriculum of trade schools. By sheer coincidence, those trades pay upwards of $35/hr 

 

Now look at the hospitality industry:  No standards or benchmarks for what a Cook should be capable of, every school has a different qualification and course length, and the hospitality industry is one of the worst paid.

 

You will learn a lot about the HR side of things.  You will learn how to interpret the Union guidelines and the local labour codes.  You will learn never to talk to a Union member alone, you will learn that it is nearly impossible to fire a thief you caught red-handed. 

 

You just won't learn much about cooking

Been a in this kitchen for 3 years now. I've reported theft but there is so much BS there, it's insane. I can't complain about the pay OR the insurance which is almost unheard of in the restaurant biz.  

 

I somewhat disagree with the learning aspect. I learn about cooking everyday. My sous chef is very knowledgable and we share techniques and constantly trying to out-due each other with flavor. I'm staying there to steal as much as possible, knowledge that is, and hopefully open  my own place in 5 years or so. 

 

Thanks Chef

post #6 of 18

So, what is a union line cook job worth these days? I had one in 1982 that paid $9.56hr Just curious.

post #7 of 18

In 96 the unions in Nevada Hotels & Casinos paid line cooks a starting wage of $11.50, prep cooks 10, saute and broiler started at 13 and the dinner cooks were at 15 per hour. I am sure that wage has increased but the positive side of the coin is as a restaurant chef ( management ) you received more money than the dinner cooks as a starting salary and also received all of the union benefits which were the best I have ever had. I gained a lot of knowledge working in this arena as the other restaurant chefs all had there own set of unique skills with a few being CIA Grads as well as other culinary schools. I remember the non union  places were paying there cooks 7 bucks an hour and working them like dogs to boot or basically the burn and turn method. Its a great learning experience if you just get the union routine down.

The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefbuba View Post

So, what is a union line cook job worth these days? I had one in 1982 that paid $9.56hr Just curious.

I'm a chief cook, below the sous chef. I cook the dinner service for a university. I get $18.35 and free insurance in 3 years under the new union contract.

post #9 of 18

Mmmm...never heard of Unions giving bennies to mngmt.  The employer giving bennies to Mgmt Yes, but the Unions, no I have never heard of that.  Come to think of it, most of the bennies are provided/paid for by the employer, not the Union, but I digress.

 

Anyhoo, in my neck of the woods, Union bennies don't kick in until after the "probation period" which is typically 3 mths, but can be as long as 9 mths.  Of course, it goes without saying that Union dues are taken from your paycheck from day 1. The bennies are vague and poorly described, but heck, the Canucks have Healthcare.  Every insurance policy I ever signed, the coverage started as soon as the first payment was made.  Just saying, you know.

 

I do know that in Vegas many hotels are now declaring that Union membership is optional.  Of course what they don't say that Union dues are subtracted from your paycheck from day 1. This is their right, if it is a Union shop they can get a slice of everyone's paycheck, and there's nothing you can do about it, other than walk out.

 

Around here, Union wages don't mean much.  Say the job advertisement claims that wages are $22.00 hr. for a Union shop.  Now you don't think they'll actually pay that, do you?  No, you start at 75% or even lower than the advertised wage.  After probation period, IF you can get 160 hrs/ mth consecutively for 2 months, you can jump to the next pay scale, which would be maybe 82-85% of the advertised rate. Doesn't happen very often for the "new guy".   After that, if you can swing 160 hrs/ mth consecutively again, you might just get the golden ring, the advertised rate.  Thing is, most Hospitality Unions I've worked for, or with, are "seniority based" NOT "merit based".  Which basically means it doesn't matter how good you cook, or what your attitude is, or even if you can get along with co workers.  It just means if you have seniority, you get your 160 hrs/mth and the other guys scramble to get 20-30 hrs/ week.  A lot of guys I know-- or knew, were working 2 or even three jobs, and just waiting for the phone call to come so they could get an extra shift or two at their Union job, and maybe, 5 years down the road, actually get that second or third wage increase.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

Mmmm...never heard of Unions giving bennies to mngmt.  The employer giving bennies to Mgmt Yes, but the Unions, no I have never heard of that.  Come to think of it, most of the bennies are provided/paid for by the employer, not the Union, but I digress.

Anyhoo, in my neck of the woods, Union bennies don't kick in until after the "probation period" which is typically 3 mths, but can be as long as 9 mths.  Of course, it goes without saying that Union dues are taken from your paycheck from day 1. The bennies are vague and poorly described, but heck, the Canucks have Healthcare.  Every insurance policy I ever signed, the coverage started as soon as the first payment was made.  Just saying, you know.

I do know that in Vegas many hotels are now declaring that Union membership is optional.  Of course what they don't say that Union dues are subtracted from your paycheck from day 1. This is their right, if it is a Union shop they can get a slice of everyone's paycheck, and there's nothing you can do about it, other than walk out.

Around here, Union wages don't mean much.  Say the job advertisement claims that wages are $22.00 hr. for a Union shop.  Now you don't think they'll actually pay that, do you?  No, you start at 75% or even lower than the advertised wage.  After probation period, IF you can get 160 hrs/ mth consecutively for 2 months, you can jump to the next pay scale, which would be maybe 82-85% of the advertised rate. Doesn't happen very often for the "new guy".   After that, if you can swing 160 hrs/ mth consecutively again, you might just get the golden ring, the advertised rate.  Thing is, most Hospitality Unions I've worked for, or with, are "seniority based" NOT "merit based".  Which basically means it doesn't matter how good you cook, or what your attitude is, or even if you can get along with co workers.  It just means if you have seniority, you get your 160 hrs/mth and the other guys scramble to get 20-30 hrs/ week.  A lot of guys I know-- or knew, were working 2 or even three jobs, and just waiting for the phone call to come so they could get an extra shift or two at their Union job, and maybe, 5 years down the road, actually get that second or third wage increase.
Yes the bennies do come from the employer but are what the union has negotiated and is a big perk for culinary mngmnt as we received the same. I was in Reno at the time and only the Hilton and Circus Circus had unions in the F & B department. If I remember the probationary period at Circus was 8 months at $8.50 an hour for line cooks and then the big bump. You are so correct in the seniority based progression but you can use it as an advantage in getting rid of the lazy freeloaders. We had the one typical bully shop steward with 12 years in and he worked the fry station for the buffet which was a pretty cheesy job but a fry cook made a dollar less than a line cook and 3 less than a saute or broiler cook. So what we did was have an opening for saute in the dinner house and posted it and he signed up for it and got it with his seniority. This dude was a very slow and poor saute cook and we rode him like a dead horse and we also used him a lot to cover breaks in the coffee shop which was a real slam operation. Well dude lasted 3 months and then hurt his back lifting something in the walk in and pulled the workers comp out and that was the end of his seniority as he never wanted to see a cooks line again!
The volume of biz back then was huge and hours in Reno where never a problem except maybe in a hard winter as the food deals were still the attraction back then with the cheap rooms. Now the industry is making a profit on everything and the food deals you see are like from midnight to 5 AM as just an added incentive to drink and gamble a little longer. People used to ask me what the most popular machine was in town to win money and I always told them that it was the ATM.
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #11 of 18

Well things are a lot better in every body's neck of the woods, but not here in Indianapolis.  The pay is not great, $9.60 up to $11.50

 

I'm a former Executive Chef, been out of work for a while and now finding myself working as a prep cook for less money then when I was in college.  I am making the same money now in 2013 that I did in 1995.  My degree got me nothing extra, my experience, nothing.  I'm paid the same amount as the other person that has ZERO food knowledge.  These people don't know how to hold a knife, use a slicer, what the proper food temps should be and they are making more then me.... why?  Because it's a union shop and they started before me.

 

Looking over the contract, the only thing that I see that the employee's get is unlimited drinks (pop,coffee, tea) and insurance that is affordable (no idea on how the break down is out of pocket) but the insurance rates are (for a single person) $7.32 the first year, $9.46 the second and $2.75 the 3rd year.  Also, nobody that I have talked to is even a official member of the union.  Not one person pays the dues, including the union steward.  Indiana is also a "right to work state" so we have the right to work and not be apart of it.  This is the final year of the contract and I along with a lot of the other workers are hoping that they get rid of it.  If they did, I know I would be getting a 3-5 dollar raise, because I would be worth it.

 

It's is sad what has gone on in the food industry, and that people like me, (and i'm not the only one, there are many others) who can't find a job or are doing stuff like this.  I'm thankful I have this job, and that there is a chance that things could change, but that needs to happen pretty fast or i'll be moving on.  I hope to find something that will pay a little more, but after being on over 20 interviews at various places here in the city, nobody was offering anything over $12.00, and even that isn't much.

post #12 of 18

I know this is an old thread, but it's tough not to share an opinion about working in a union house when you have. My experience is in consulting for a self operated college foodservice that was unionized. SEIC, to be exact, which is a big union. It was extremely frustrating being an advisor to management whose hands were tied by the union from implementing any reasonable changes that would make the operation run more efficiently. The union was in the business of keeping people employed, and the only ones who needed their assistance were the alcoholics, drug addicts and all around trouble makers. They had the same job security everyone else had thanks to the unions. The operation had a lot of trouble keeping good employees when those employees saw that there was no reward for being a good employee. They made the same money as the guy who comes to work drunk, or the girl who doesn't show up at all. They also have to pick up their slack while not making a penny more. It was a very inefficient way to run an operation. It was like a big race to the bottom.

 

After my experience, and from years of talking to business owners and managers about their own, I've found an easy way to summize union employment. A union shop is a great place to work for a bad employee, a good place to work for an OK employee, a bad place to work for a great employee, and an impossible place to work for a manager.

 

I hope others have better experiences operating in union atmospheres, but I don't see a lot of good coming out of it. Higher pay and lowered performance from a union atmosphere just sets a business up to fail, or worse, to have to operate in an unethical or illegal manner to get by.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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post #13 of 18
Do part time workers get the same wages and benefits in the union as a full time union member?
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by rocktrns View Post

Do part time workers get the same wages and benefits in the union as a full time union member?


Not in my experience.

The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #15 of 18

Mine neither.  But hey, you do get to pay the same union dues as f/t though!

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #16 of 18

All my life I fought unions and most time I won. In the beginning they were good they took people out of sweatshops and gave them a decent wage. Over the years they became havens for organized cime. A good worker does not need a union, the union needs him. I have seen th ings done by them which were unreal.

      A waiter retireing afte 30 years goes to the union officesl to discuss his benefits and they tell him he has to supply records, when in fact they have been deducting his dues for years.  All the officers of the union driving big cars that  the members pay for. Awarding themselves raises and bonuses every year.  The workers are on strike but the union execs still get paid the same.. I have seen Shakedowns, graft, outrite stealing , strong arm and yes even murder. When I was fighting the union, I was threatened and had all 4 of my tires slashed. We beat them in  the long run, by forming and getting a charter for our own union from the state. We treated our staff well and they were happy.

 

Union slogan '"Its not my job man""     Chef Ed

CHEFED
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post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by ED BUCHANAN View Post

 

Union slogan '"Its not my job man""     Chef Ed

I have been told this line more times than I care to remember!

The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #18 of 18

One  day I was woking the flight kitchen at Kennedy and we had many airline contracts. I had a guy who boned out all the imported prossuito and cured the cappy's and made the mortadella  for air italias account. They were usually busy  but on this particular day they had no flights. I ask the guy give us a hand in the butcher shop  he looks at me and says""the classic  thats not my job""  I said to him'' well since it isnt and there  is nothing else for you to do''. GO HOME.'' He did not get paid

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