Workers at Chi-Chi's restaurant ended the latest attempt by Local 26 of the AFL-CIO to organize Cambridge restaurant employees when they rejected the union's recent proposal by a three-to-one margin.
The vote by employees at the Mass Ave. restaurant came in the middle of a developing labor dispute involving Local 26, former workers at the Ha'penny Pub and Ferdinand's, and Louis DiGiovanni, the owner of the two establishments. DiGiovanni closed the restaurants this month after workers at Ferdinand's requested collective bargaining through Local 26.
Ferdinand's and Ha'Penny remain closed, but DiGiovanni is expected to announce this week their sale to an undisclosed buyer.
Dominie N. Bozzotto, president of Local 26 cited "students' tendency to put up with a lot of harassment" as a major reason for the union's January 29 loss at Chi-Chi's. The majority of Chi-Chi's workers are young and, seeing their jobs as only temporary, don't realize the need for a union, Bozzotto said.
"Often these jobs aren't as temporary as students first believe, and they should not spend two, three years or more without fair wages and proper benefits." Bozzotto said. He added that wages and benefits for restaurant employees are "far better" in Boston where there are many active unions.
Thomas F. Leahey, a Chi-Chi's manager, said the employees simply decided there was no need for an outside negotiator to solve differences with management. "We all realized that everyone can accomplish more by working together as a solid team."
Bozzotto said the shut-downs at Ferdinand's and Ha'penny hurt his union's chances at Chi-Chi's. "The Chi-Chi workers were looking for job security, that's why they approached us in the first place: they certainly didn't want to be unemployed," Bozzotto said.
Since Chi-Chi's is part of a large chain, the company could afford to close if the union had won the vote, he added.
Local 26 is now waiting for a decision later this week by the national Labor Relations Board on its right to picket the Bakery, The Atrium Cafe and Rufus Porter's on church Street.
The union contends that these establishments, although part of a separate corporation, are in fact owned by DiGiovanni.
If the NLRB rules that DiGiovanni does have a major interest in the three firms, the union says it will picket on Church Street to force DiGiovanni to bargain about Ferdinand's and Ha'penny.