Friday, September 08, 2006

Mamma/Mother's Mamma, Union Chief Powwow on Minimum Wage

There's been movement on the story about Lisa Schroeder, owner of Mamma Mia's and Mother's Bistro, and her one-time advocacy for exempting servers from Oregon's minimum wage laws. In the wake of controversy started when a state Democratic party-promoted women's outreach event was scheduled for Mamma Mia's, and Loaded Orygun called foul because of Schroeder's anti-worker stance on the bill (which was eventually defeated in 2005's session), state AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain met with Schroeder this week to talk turkey. Here's the result in a statement from the union boss:
I appreciate all of the comments posted on the minimum wage issue. People obviously care very much about Oregon’s minimum wage workers, even when they themselves earn more. I’m happy to report that Lisa Schroeder and I met over coffee on Thursday. I have truly come to believe that Ms. Schroeder is sincere in having seen the light on the damaging impacts of the tip penalty. She agreed with me that all of Oregon workers deserve to be paid no less than our state’s voter-passed minimum wage (which is currently $7.50 an hour.)

Ms.Schroeder assured me that she will not support any initiative or legislation or anything else that would weaken or overturn Oregon’s voter-passed minimum wage. This is great news for Oregon’s workers. It’s also a relief for Portland’s restaurant lovers, who can once again patronize Mother’s and Mama Mia’s without choosing between honoring their progressive values and indulging their love of good food. [emphs mine]
It is indeed good news, for the most part. Earlier, the position taken going into the meeting was that Chamberlain would seek a promise from Schroeder not to block any union organizing in her restaurants. That idea was either shelved, or she did not agree to it--but the meeting appears to still be at Mamma Mia's anyway. It may be that Chamberlain considered the minimum wage focus to be the appropriate pressure point, and that trying to extract some kind of blood from Schroeder on an only semi-related issue wasn't such a good idea. Let's put it this way: based on this experience, and Schroeder's protestations that she's a good progressive and merely got duped by the ORA, it should almost go without saying that she won't block any future organizing...or the fact that she has will surely find its way to our pages, and a (likely less amicable) return to controversy.

But if we at LO (and Kari at BO) are responsible at least in part for helping turn an ambiguous foe into an unreserved backer on workers' rights, that's something to feel good about. Chamberlain seems to agree:
I would like to thank Ms. Schroeder for taking the time to talk with me, for her support of the minimum wage and for her ongoing support of progressive causes. I’d also like to thank the organizers of this event for offering to move it because of concerns about workers’ rights. Finally, I’d like to thank Kari at BlueOregon and Torrid Joe at LoadedOrygun for caring enough about workers to bring this issue to light. It’s reassuring to know that so many people are willing to answer the call to help Oregon’s workplace laws stay strong.
You flatter us, Mr. Chamberlain--but we appreciate the recognition. We've got work to do this fall, so let's get back together and press forward, shall we?