For immediate release
November 3, 2023
Workers at the famed clubs are calling for respectful scheduling, fair pay, and improved training on the job
Minneapolis – For decades, First Avenue bartenders, service and event staff have worked hard to ensure concertgoers enjoy their night at one of the country’s most important independent venues. Now, workers at First Avenue – along with the six other venues the company operates across the Twin Cities – are demanding a seat at the table with their employer so together they can create better workplaces for decades of music to come.
“I think we’re the best clubs in the Cities, so I want to be treated like we’re the best,” said Pauli DeMaris, who has worked as a bartender and event staff at First Avenue clubs for more than 18 years.
More than 200 service and event staff work across First Avenue, 7th Street Entry, Depot Tavern, Turf Club, Fine Line Music Café, Palace Theatre, and Fitzgerald Theater. On Thursday, November 2, workers delivered a petition to management with a super-majority of signatures, calling on the company to recognize their union with UNITE HERE Local 17 and negotiate a union contract.
A group of First Avenue workers have participated in a new leadership development and training program with ROC MN that was instrumental in preparing them to exercise their rights on the job, including their rights to collective and concerted action.
“I’m organizing because I love this job. I care so much about this place and about live music. I want to make First Ave better for me and my coworkers, I would love to not have to work three jobs,” said Maddy Loch, who has worked as event staff at First Avenue clubs for a year.
Workers are organizing for fair pay, more training, and respectful scheduling practices that would allow them to better plan for their lives. Many service and event staff work multiple venues and different jobs shift to shift. Earnings can vary greatly depending on whether workers get assigned tipped or non-tipped positions. Even two decades of seniority at First Avenue may not prevent you from getting scheduled for shifts earning minimum wage and no tips. Schedules can be unpredictable and are released with only four days’ notice.
“I get both tipped and minimum wage shifts, and budgeting is difficult. Recently, there was a good month and a half where all my bar shifts were bad. It was like ‘Guess I’ll wait to go to the grocery store,’” said DeMaris.
“I’ve missed out on helping my family because of the way the schedule works. I can’t let people know if I’m free until as little as four days before, so I don’t really make plans,” said Tony Bosak, who has worked at First Avenue clubs for four and a half years. “I love my job, I put a lot of effort in, and I don’t feel appreciated. We all want support and recognition.”
UNITE HERE Local 17 is Minnesota’s hospitality workers’ union, representing over 6,000 workers in hotels, airport restaurants, sports stadiums, craft beverage makers, university cafeterias, and more.
Restaurant Opportunities Center of Minnesota (ROC MN) is a non-profit Worker Center that educates and trains service industry workers to improve their working conditions and mobilizes community support for their efforts.
ROC MN and UNITE HERE Local 17 share a long-term commitment to improving working conditions in the Twin Cities service industry.