65 workers at the Central Park Boathouse restaurant walked off the job today in a surprise protest against their employer's labor practices. The restaurant, operated by Dean Poll, is currently under investigation National Labor Relations Board because of allegations that managers interrogated, intimidated, and in some cases fired workers who supported the union. Disgruntled workers loudly protested outside the restaurant today, and Crain's reports that some union supporters even rented boats and paddled up to the outdoor dining room waving signs that said, "Dean Poll, respect workers,” and “Shame on you."
You'll recall that Poll previously ran into trouble with restaurant unions when he made his aborted bid to take over Tavern on the Green. According to Crain's, that showdown with the union spread to the Boathouse, which isn't a union house... yet. As a negotiating tactic during the Tavern battle, the Hotel and Motel Trades Council started organizing workers at the Boathouse, and after Poll walked way from Tavern and allegedly fired union sympathizers at Boathouse, the push to unionize "became a high priority."
The Parks Department, which rakes in $3 million from Poll every year, is withholding judgment pending the outcome of the investigation. But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has called on the city to cancel the Boathouse contract, and in a statement issued today, he said, "If you want to do business with the City of New York, be prepared to treat your workers with dignity and respect. I stand by these men and women today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes to resolve this situation."
In a statement, Poll's lawyer said, "The workers who walked out today represent a small percentage of the approximately 140 men and women who are employed at the Central Park Boathouse. While The Boathouse management respects the employees who came to work and walked off the job, this walkout is yet another vindictive tactic by Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward, who wrongly blames Dean Poll for the fact that Tavern on the Green remains closed."