BATTLE OF THE GREEN

Tavern on the Green is one of New York City's iconic places. With a tranquil setting in the city's beautiful Central Park, this legendary, decades-old eatery and banquet hall is enormously popular. But, suddenly, Dean Poll has shattered the tranquility and seems determined to turn the landmark tavern into Blood on the Green.

Tavern on the Green is one of New York City’s iconic places. With a tranquil setting in the city’s beautiful Central Park, this legendary, decades-old eatery and banquet hall is enormously popular. But, suddenly, Dean Poll has shattered the tranquility and seems determined to turn the landmark tavern into Blood on the Green.

In September, Poll was awarded the lease to operate the city-owned Tavern on the Green, taking over from the family that ran it for 33 years. Right off the bat, the new owner made a proposal to the Hotel Trades Council, the union that represents some 400 chefs, waiters, prep cooks, and other Tavern employees. His proposal can be summed up in one word: “Thbbbllllletttt.”

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Poll wants to trash the existing agreement that had been negotiated with the union, and replace it it with a new, 23-section dictum that essentially says, “Poll rules.” Among his rules: a two-tier wage system to bust the middle-class pay workers now earn; minimum wage for waiters ($4.65 an hour, plus tips); no pay for overtime; total de-unionization of sous chefs, coat-checkers, and other positions; no advance notice of schedule changes, layoffs, or reduction in hours; and pension and health plans to be altered to suit the new jefe.

Poll believes that “outdated rules can’t work in the new economy.” New economy? This is a restaurant! Nothing “new” about it. Chefs, servers, and all the other professionals on the job are what make the place a success. Outdated rules? Those rules create America’s middle Class! Nothing “outdated” about them.

What we have here is just another greedhead in action – and the Battle of the Green is on! Calling Poll’s proposal “an atrocity,” union president Peter Ward says: “We will strike this guy for a hundred years.” To connect to their effort, go to www.nyhtc.org.

“First Course at Tavern: A Clash With Labor,” The New York Times, September 23, 2009.

“Union launches drive to save Tavern on the Green jobs,” www.nyhtc.org, October 5, 2009.

“Timing Becomes an Issue in Tavern on the Green Dispute,” www.nytimes.com, October 13, 2009.

“A Reprieve for Tavern on the Green,” www.nytimes.com October 15, 2009.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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