Some businesses support striking union members

by Nathan Hall

Most business owners have been reluctant to take a stance on the University clerical workers’ strike, but some businesses have shown support for striking workers by posting signs on their windows, allowing use of their restrooms and offering free or discounted food to the strikers.

Anh-Thu Pham, a principal account specialist for University Disability Services and a striking union member, said several Stadium Village, Dinkytown and West Bank businesses have been supportive.

She said businesses with pro-worker signs in their windows have allowed strikers to use their restrooms to avoid crossing picket lines.

Sally Lieberman, a senior University academic adviser, helped put up the signs around the neighborhoods.

“The sign doesn’t indicate that they contributed to the hardship fund, but they certainly could if they wanted to,” Lieberman said. “This is their way of reciprocating support, because we already patronize these establishments.”

Louie Detienne, a Leaning Tower of Pizza manager, said his restaurant offers a 50 percent discount for strikers but cannot post a sign advertising the discount.

“We don’t want to stir up controversy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still show support,” Detienne said. “It’s sort of an unwritten, nudge-and-a-wink sort of thing.”

Adecco Employment Services – the largest provider of temporary workers to the University – will not provide replacement workers during the strike, Adecco public

relations director Victoria Mitchell said in an e-mail statement. The company has a policy of remaining neutral during labor disputes, she said.

Area coffee shop and restaurant owners said that this week has been business as usual during the strike.

“There’s really been no difference in anything so far,” European Grind owner T.J. McCleod said.

Tom Harmening, director of U.S. Labor Relations for consultancy firm Hill & Knowlton, said while he is not familiar with the University strike, strikes in general are never good for the local economy.

“This disrupts the status quo, and you don’t want confrontation because that could mean a possible drop in foot traffic,” Harmening said. “Maybe perhaps some people don’t want to hang outside where there’s loud chanting and signs.”

Holiday Inn at Seven Corners, however, did get a new customer out of the strike.

University law professor Mary Fellows said she has been renting a conference room at Holiday Inn for $250 a day, paying out of her own pocket, to hold her three classes off campus.

“It’s a lot of money for me, but it’s also a lot of money the staff is out, too, so I’m willing to do this until the strike ends,” Fellows said. “I’m respecting the staff that allowed me to complete my scholarship, and this helps everyone who helped me when I needed it.”