Pabst Theater Group Workers to Unionize

Employees of the Pabst Theater Group – the company responsible for booking shows at Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, Turner Hall, and the Back Room at Colectivo – rallied in front of the Riverside on Wednesday about their decision to form a union, joined by members of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH).

Justin Otto, who works in PTG hospitality, spoke about why he supports a union.

“We know what life is like in the service industry without it,” he said. “A lot of us have to juggle multiple part time jobs just to get by, sometimes working till 2 or 3 in the morning and then getting a couple hours of sleep before you go right back to work at your other job. We’re excited to see other service workers getting big wins all around the country, and we’re excited to be a part of that at a local level.”

Lulu Sanchez, who works in the PTG box office, shared her own thoughts.

“We just want it to be better,” she said. “Just because some of us may be younger, like I was when I started, doesn’t mean that we don’t need secure employment and a voice on the job. Just because we’re in the service industry doesn’t mean that we don’t need to know that we’ll be respected. We need to know that we can predict our hours to pay our bills, we need to know that we can’t be fired because someone doesn’t like the way that we look, and we need to know that what we contribute to making our city awesome is valued, respected, and protected.”

MASH member and Fiserv Forum concession cook Luther Rivas also spoke. “We stand up together to make the service industry better because we enjoy our jobs and want them to improve,” he said. “Workers stand up to make that change happen.”

“I have made many, many friends here at work,” Sanchez said. “It’s a job that allows you to be creative. It’s a place where we develop community. We develop that community for ourselves as we serve the public who also love our shows, and we develop that community for our broader city.”

Their request to unionize was rejected by the company the previous day, and it will now go to the National Labor Relations Board for a vote. But over 80% of employees (about 60 of them) from involved departments signed cards – they know that this is what they want. The workers expect to win the vote with no issue.

“Soon we’re going to be celebrating when we officially become the next union entertainment venue in Milwaukee,” Otto concluded.

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