Bounce Milwaukee is proactively seeking a union contract on behalf of its own workers in advance of its reopening.
Bounce Milwaukee, an entertainment center and hospitality venue, announced Friday its workers will be able to form a union in collaboration with Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH) upon its reopening in mid-September.
The labor agreement comes as employers in Wisconsin and nationwide try to address a worker shortage by raising wages and giving employees more competitive benefits. MASH was also behind the landmark union contract for service workers at the Milwaukee Bucks’ Fiserv Forum.
Bounce Milwaukee co-owner Becky Cooper has been looking to create a union contract since 2015, but her employees didn’t see an immediate need for it at the time. The effort finally started once the business shut down due to the pandemic and Cooper had a bit more time on her hands. She reached out to MASH, and now they’re working together to offer union information upon the onboarding of new Bounce employees, along with a hiring hall hosted by MASH to recruit employees who are looking for union jobs.
“What Milwaukee needs right now is good, supportive, collaborative jobs that recognize the value of workers,” Cooper said.
MASH President Peter Rickman said the labor agreement will “build a new model for how these businesses can prosper.” He explained these types of union contracts will help to address the workforce shortage, as many employees are actively leaving industries due to lack of childcare or healthcare benefits, coining this phenomenon a “low-grade generational strike.”
Cooper said the agreement is another example of how the business has actively served the Milwaukee community since its founding in 2014. While closed during the pandemic, Bounce partnered with Ayuda Mutua Milwaukee to distribute food and household products to a total of 10,000 families in need, according to Cooper.
Bounce employee Pam Spingola is the mother of three children and has worked in the service industry for 25 years. She explained problems with her jobs before Bounce, including the physical and mental stress, insufficient wages, poor management, and the lack of healthcare benefits. Her job at Bounce allowed her to “know what it’s like to work for good bosses in the industry,” she said.
“This agreement that Bounce has made with MASH, and unionizing, is really the best way forward for the industry and the employees here,” Spingola said.
She hopes the workforce agreement will set an example for other Milwaukee businesses and employers to follow suit.
“Through the pandemic, people are realizing that they don’t want to go back to the way things were, so it makes sense that employees, as they’re coming back in, are going to demand fair wage and representation in the workplace,” said state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), who attended the agreement announcement.
Similar to Spingola, Rickman hopes employers in the Milwaukee area will see this union contract and realize it is not a hindrance to employers, but rather helps strengthen operations at the business.
In a joint press release, Bounce and MASH said the agreement “provides for the orderly and amicable formation and recognition of the union amongst Bounce employees, as well as resources and involvement of MASH as a workforce pipeline in the recruitment and hiring of Bounce operations employees.”
Bounce Milwaukee and MASH will negotiate an official union contract once they hire an operations workforce and the union gets formally recognized. Rickman said the Fiserv Forum labor agreement—which established a $15 minimum hourly wage, among other benefits—will serve as a baseline for Bounce employees’ contract negotiations. However, Bounce and MASH will have to adapt to restrictive American labor laws that were created before businesses like Bounce existed, Rickman said.
“American labor law was written closer to the Civil War than it is today. It was created for a factory economy that has long since ceased to exist,” he said.