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Action continues against Richtree's union busting

September 16, 2013

In January, the Eaton Centre Richtree restaurant laid off all of its workers under the premise of shutting down that location for good. Now in September, Richtree has reopened a newly renovated Eaton Centre location employing two hundred workers, along with a holographic maitre d'. Conspicuously absent, however, are the originally laid-off workers and the union that represented them.
Citing a number of flimsy justifications, the company argues that the laid-off workforce all accepted their severance packages—though, of course, they had not been given any choice about it—and the fact that the renovated restaurant (inside the Eaton Centre) has a different address from the old location (also located inside the Eaton Centre).
Not only are the actions of Richtree Market immoral, and a violation of labour law, they also set a very dangerous precedent in terms of a new tactic for union busting. A tactic that is unfortunately being used increasingly by businesses emboldened by the ongoing attack on workers in the neoliberal era. Ultimately, if Richtree's actions prove successful for the company, then it won’t be long before many more companies rid themselves of their own unions by simply closing down for renovations.
Obviously, this cannot be allowed to happen. This issue is important not just for Richtree workers, but for the entire labour movement and all working people.
On their grand re-opening on September 9, but starting even before then, actions against the company have been ongoing. Unite Here, Local 75, the union representing the laid-off workers, has initiated a grievance procedure against the restaurant, which was hand delivered to the company by the laid-off workers on opening day. The local has also called a number of mass rallies outside the Eaton Centre. The rally on opening day was especially spirited and attended by hundreds, including not only members from the local, but also Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, members of a nearby labour law firm, labour leaders from the Toronto Labour Council, as well as many rank-and-file workers from the labour movement. Over a hundred community allies turned out as well.
Though the opening salvo against the company has been quite successful, it is critical that pressure be maintained if Richtree is to concede, bring back its laid-off workers and recognize the union. Actions against the company will continue into the coming months, and a number of allies have come together independently of the union to form a Richtree Workers Autonomous Solidarity Committee. One of the upcoming plans of the committee is to establish a daily information picket outside of the mall.
Everyone interested in getting involved in the solidarity committee, able to commit an hour or two a week to the solidarity picket, or interested in being involved in other actions, should contact:
Photo by Kevin Konnyu

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