Union members at a popular restaurant chain went on strike Monday morning after what they called a “constant battle” with their employer.
Employees at Stella’s restaurant on Sherbrook Street started walking the picket line at 7 a.m.
“This is not a strike over wages. This is a strike over the complete lack of respect that this employer shows to workers,” said Jeff Traeger, president of UFCW Local 832, in a statement sent to media.
“We have been in a constant battle with this employer since the Not My Stella’s campaign happened — a campaign that pointed out the worst of many problems this employer has.”
Two years ago, an Instagram account that cited hundreds of complaints and allegations of harrassment, mistreatment and inappropriate behaviour brought to light the mistreatment of workers.
The restaurant responded by apologizing, hiring a PR firm, and firing some key staff members. Two locations, including the location on Sherbrook Street, ended up unionizing. The other location on Osborne Street closed earlier this year.
Stella’s owners said the restaurant “grew too fast and did not put the right systems in place to guide our managers or protect and support our people. That was a mistake.”
The union claims the owners of the restaurant are not taking the process of bargaining seriously.
“This employer is one of the most disrespectful that UFCW 832 has ever dealt with,” Trager said.
“During this process, the employer has consistently not taken the process seriously and has not come to the table with any proposals.”
The bargaining committee has been working on a new contract for the restaurant’s 39 members since June. All 39 members voted unanimously for a strike mandate.
A spokesperson for Stella’s said the company made an “offer to avert the strike,” but has not yet received a response.
“Considering the challenging circumstances restaurants across our city find themselves in, which of course includes Stella’s Sherbrook, to accept the current UFCW proposal would be disastrous,” the company said.
“It would cause extreme economic harm to Stella’s, adversely affecting all staff, customers, and suppliers.”