Monday, August 14, 2006

A bit controversial

I thought for a long time about whether I should post this piece of the transcriptions. As you'll see, Joe is telling me not to put it on the blog. My mother, meanwhile, gives the go ahead. But the whole point of this blog is to commemorate and document Dubrow's. Any good documentary maker would say that you don't censor what you find just because you don't like it. So here we go.

Joe: Now, Bonnie, you gotta hear this one (to me)– turn the tape recorder off –

Bonnie: No, you’re not turning it off –

Joe: This is not good. This is not good for our image. Uh…they were trying to unionize the cafeteria. And they didn’t want to unionize. So the union went down to the bowery…the truck – they gave them more money – this is absolutely true – my father was there. (to Ruthie) See, they don’t tell you the bad news, you would have said “Pop, unionize!” You know, I told my father, I asked him once, “why are there no Black countermen?” He said, "You want to go to college?" I said, “No, I really don’t want to go to college, frankly. And I’d rather you put Black people behind the counter.” He said, “You want me to be the first?” I said, “yes, I want you to be the first!” But, your father, my father, they weren’t the first. I know people who were – I’ve given awards to people who were – people who had the balls in Miami Beach in those days to stand up, and it wasn’t our family. But anyway, they were also – they didn’t want to unionize – they would bring these bums in, and of course it drove all these other people away - Simon Batwinick was by a tree, outside, screaming “The Jews go to Miami in the winter!” – he was mister union man. Now, years later, he’s a partner of our father’s and he was the worst son of a bitch to people that worked under him, ever, ever…I don’t know anyone who was as mean as I heard he was…

Ruthie: I didn’t know that either.

Joe: Yeah, that’s where he was: “The Dubrows go to Florida in the winter!” What a bastard he was when he became a boss. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Apparently, Dubrow's employees at one or more of the locations attempted to unionize. Anyone else have recollection of this? If Simon Batwinick (spelling uncertain) or his family are reading this blog, I feel compelled to note that the opinions suggested here are not the opinions of anyone other than Joe. I would very much like to hear your story, if you are out there.

As a former union president myself (Parry Center for Children, local 987 of SEIU/OPEU) I find it unsettling to think that any of my relatives were anti-union. But I also know that the way the world works is that there are managers and workers, and that when you're on the manager side being accountable for the bottom line, things look a lot different than when you're the worker, defending your right to organize. Both sides have truths, both sides have struggles. One side just has more power, and power is rarely given up without a fight. It's easy to empathize with why they would have resisted unionization, even if it's not pretty.

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