Servers Not Served – Unemployment Insurance Not Provided to Thousands of Hospitality Workers Across Massachusetts

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 7/17/2021

This guest post is provided by Molly Kivi, an accountant turned unemployed server, who believes hospitality is a way of life. When the pandemic started, she used her knowledge of law, taxes, and government bureaucracy to serve her fellow restaurant workers by advocating for needed change in the flawed unemployment insurance program.

On July 22nd at 5pm the Commission to Study Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Solvency will hold a public hearing about the importance of safeguarding Massachusetts workers’ access to unemployment insurance. The Commission is jointly chaired by Senator Pat Jehlen of Second Middlesex district and Representative Josh Cutler of Sixth Plymouth district. You can sign up to speak at the hearing here.

This commission was enacted into law on April 1st, 2021, in response to the Unemployment Tax and Benefit Reform campaign. This restaurant-worker led campaign began in March of 2020 to warn lawmakers that the unemployment system was not ready for fiscal and social emergencies such as COVID-19.

Unemployment insurance is an important public health and economic stability tool. The restaurant industry employs 10% of the nation’s labor force. In 2020, we realized that the state’s UI program was not ready for a crisis. Facebook groups like Industry United, MA Unemployment Consultation, and MA PUA and UI Unemployment Help sprang up in response to an entire industry of people having issues accessing benefits.

Unemployment insurance is designed to protect workers from economic devastation when forces out of their control take their livelihood away. Workers are forced out of their jobs all the time due to unsafe work conditions, job duties, and workplace behaviors that are unlawful, as well as layoffs due to economic downturns and in industries that experience cyclical job losses, like the arts and construction.

Despite its importance for safeguarding workers’ livelihoods, the Massachusetts unemployment insurance system has some significant structural flaws. The benefit payments do not factor in purchasing power, so insurance increasingly fails to help workers deal with a rising cost of living. The tax system used to fund the program is also regressive, because the taxable wage base is capped at the first $15,000 of workers’ income. Furthermore, because employers’ tax rates increase when layoffs occur, smaller businesses end up paying into the system higher rates than large businesses that are better able to weather business cycle fluctuations. Finally, for decades the trust fund that holds the money to distribute benefit payments has not collected enough revenue to comply with the Department of Labor standards, due to a  tax break benefiting big business enacted in 1997 costing the state 13 billion dollars.

The effects of an insolvent trust fund ripple throughout the state economy, ultimately hurting the working class the most. The application process places a cumbersome administrative burden on unemployed workers, and restrictions on access often disqualify workers unjustly. The taxes used to pay interest on the loans that Massachusetts takes out to cover its unemployment insurance liability are levied with a regressive impact on small businesses and workers.

The restaurant industry serves the public. We host families on special occasions, we calm the nerves on first dates, and we provide the place for friends to gather. As an industry we were asked again to sacrifice. To stay home, lose out on job security and income to protect the public health of our communities. Unfortunately, the social insurance that was supposed to be there was not there for many restaurant industry workers.

If you have a story about your experience with unemployment insurance, please sign up and share it. July 22nd at 5pm is our day to be heard. Thank you.

Please watch this YouTube video for a more in-depth understanding of Unemployment Insurance:  Solidarity LIVE! Unemployment insurance: making it more equitable in Massachusetts. With Molly Kivi.

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President Biden & Congress: URGENT Request to Replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund-Support ALL Eligible Independent Restaurants & Bars NOW!!! #ReplenishRRF

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 7/12/2021

What would you do if you owned a business and were notified that after barely surviving the horrific hardship of the pandemic, a significant cash windfall/grant (not loan) was imminent? Spend/invest in personal and professional necessities/improvements you were holding off on? Take care of your employees, family, colleagues, employees, vendors, and landlord? Splurge/celebrate a little, believing substantial help was on the verge of finally becoming reality?

That scenario is exactly what played out to hundreds of thousands of hopeful independent restaurant and bar owners across America recently. The promise of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was palpable. And on Wednesday, 6/30, the proverbial rug was pulled out from under most of the grant-eligible restaurants in an email from the US Small Business Administration. This is absolute bullshit, and President Biden, his administration, and Congress need to urgently replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund until EVERY eligible, Independent Restaurant and Bar in America is funded according to what they qualified for.

Tragically, many restaurants and bars will not have time to wait for a replenishment of the fund. And ironically, many folks that received huge grants may decide to ‘take the money and run’, after contemplating, “Why reopen and go back to the rat race if I don’t need to prove how I spend the money?” In an industry with 5(ish) percent ‘profit’ margins, you’re essentially ‘giving back’ 95% of the grant by grinding it out and staying open. This WILL happen, and should have been anticipated/prevented in the screening process. Based on the initial formula for eligibility, a lot of restaurants that received huge grants were actually rewarded for shutting down 100% rather than ‘pivoting’ the way that many of their peers did to support their staff, vendors, and community. The greater the loss, the bigger the grants. Yes, every restaurant, owner, and set of ethical standards are unique, and many ‘true colors,’ good, bad, and ugly have been revealed throughout the plague…

Even worse than learning that the RRF has been depleted, is the kick in the teeth finding out that ‘ineligible’ restaurants received huge grants by circumventing the qualification requirements or leveraging their political clout to cheat the system. Why weren’t their grants rescinded? Those funds could have been spread out to Mom and Pop neighborhood restaurants and bars that didn’t get a dime. If you’re furious, I’m with you, and it’s time to take action. And the restaurants that were fortunate enough to receive grants from the first round of funding need to continue to fight for equity for their industry brothers and sisters until every eligible restaurant in America is funded.

On Thursday, July 1, I posted the following in my Server Not Servant Facebook Group, Instagram, and Twitter:

“Awful news for many independent U S. restaurants anxiously awaiting word on the status of their Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants. From the 7/1/21 Restaurant Business article, “In a letter emailed Wednesday night to applicants, the U.S. Small Business Administration said it was able to provide grants of up to $10 million to 105,000 restaurant operators before the program’s $28.6 billion was depleted. Yet, it indicated, another 265,000 applicants were left disappointed…Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to replenish the fund with an additional $60 billion, but the bill has not progressed.”

Simple math indicated that the grant program was woefully underfunded from the outset. Precedent had been set when the U.S. Govt ‘bailed out’ big banks, Bear Stearns (“Too big to fail”), FNMA, Freddie Mac, AIG & Insurance companies, the Airline & Auto Industries during crises. Independent restaurants are major contributors to the US economy, and the pandemic is one of the worst calamities we have ever faced as a nation.

Further, “Second-order effects of restaurant closures ripple through the American economy, bringing economic pain to farmers, foragers, ranchers, manufacturers, and other producers who supply the industry. Equally hit are supply chain partners who move good across the country.” –Forbes 8/10/20

Owning and operating a restaurant and small business is a fucking grind during ‘normal’ times. After what restaurateurs have endured since the onset of the pandemic, the U S. Congress needs to act urgently to replenish the fund and equitably provide grants to every eligible independent restaurant in America. If not, with the increase in food and labor costs, and shortage of staff, the absence of the highly-anticipated grants will be the death knell for a rash of neighborhood restaurants teetering on the brink.”

In the comments on all 3 platforms I added the following:

According to the NYT, 7/1/21, “When Congress created the restaurant fund in March as part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, it ordered the Small Business Administration to put a priority on funding for businesses owned by women, people of color and military veterans.”

I fully support priority being ‘granted’ to oppressed or ‘underserved’ (SBA’s language) groups of American restaurant and bar owners. It’s about fucking time. However, with more forethought and creativity, lawmakers could have done a much better job executing the distribution of funds. What unfolded is a clusterfuck of lawsuits, rescinded grants, policy changes, empty promises, disappointment, high stress. and anxiety.

“For a hundred thousand restaurants, the R.R.F. has made their future clear and stable, but for the more than 200,000 operators shut out of funding, receiving this letter today only heightens their fear and anger,” said Sean Kennedy, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association. “We need Congress to act.” -NYT

Without additional funding, they will undermine the initiative by perpetuating jealousy/envy/anger between the ‘haves’ (grantees) and ‘have nots,’ again. This is exactly what many Americans have been trying to ameliorate forever…

What should have been done? 

Again, to me, the most glaring inequity here is that many restaurants and bars (groups) received $10 million grants, and MANY received ZERO. Here’s proof. (Click on the link to see what restaurants in your neighborhood/state received, and which Mom and Pop joints you love received nothing.)  It doesn’t take a Fields Medal recipient to realize that a more thoughtful, creative, equitable distribution of funds was possible.

  1. Very simply, if $28.6 billion was available for 370,000 eligible applicants, $77k+ could have been distributed to everyone eligible.
  2. I get that the $10 Million grant recipients have more than 1 restaurant. However, instead of disbursing $10 million to some restaurant groups, even if they got $1 million and the other $9 million was disbursed in $50k increments, 180 Mom and Pop neighborhood restaurants that didn’t receive a nickel would be absolutely thrilled right now instead of infuriated. [In an industry where 5% ‘profit’ margins are common, it would take $1 million in sales to generate $50k in profit.]

This IS LIFE or DEATH for restaurants and bars. And without our outrage and support, many more will close for good.

I’ve been an early advocate of a federal grant program and relief for independent restaurants and bars, here, here, here, here, and here.  Conceptually, philosophically, and morally, based on American precedent, it is the right thing to do. The necessity of restaurants/bars shutting down was imperative in the interest of the safety and health of the American people–workers and the public. The RRF was well-intended, but VERY poorly executed. And now it’s time to rectify the wrongs and support every eligible independent restaurant in America.

I will update/edit this post often to include specifics on how you can take action. Please email me at patrick@servernotservant.com or add your comments and links below to support the #RestaurantRevolt and save your favorite American neighborhood restaurants. Please share far and wide. Thank you.

  1. Follow Independent Restaurant Coalition for specifics on how you can urge President Biden, US leaders, and Congress to do the right thing.
  2. It will be very interesting to see if the large (or any) grant recipients offer to give back (similar to PPP) or attempt to locally reallocate a portion of their grants now that they’re realizing that many of their neighbors and industry community members got nothing.

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Support the Restaurants Act-4 Actions You Can Take Now via Independent Restaurant Coalition

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 2/11/2021

Shared with permission from the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC). Please visit their site and sign up for email updates. And please share this on your social media platforms and with everyone you know who cares about independent restaurants. Thank you-Patrick Maguire #ServerNotServant

2/11/21 IRC Update:

We’ve never been closer to our goal. In the first ever Senate vote on restaurant relief last week, 90 senators supported the creation of an independent restaurant and bar relief fund in the budget. Hours later, the RESTAURANTS Act was reintroduced in the House and Senate.

To ensure our bill becomes law — helping businesses survive and get millions of employees back to work — we need to secure as many cosponsors as possible. Even though we had massive support in 2020, we’re starting from scratch because there’s a new Congress, which means lawmakers have to cosponsor again even if they did so last year.

Here’s how you can make a difference in a matter of minutes by completing one (or all four!) of these actions:

HAVE 2 MINUTES?
Email your representatives asking them to cosponsor the RESTAURANTS Act.

5 MINUTES?
Encourage your network on social media to contact their representatives and advocate for the passage of the RESTAURANTS Act by sharing the graphic linked here and the caption below.

It’s official: the RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 is on the menu in both chambers of Congress. Call your representatives today and tell them that independent restaurants, bars, and workers can’t wait any longer for direct relief: 202-224-3121 #SaveRestaurants

10 MINUTES?
Call your representatives directly at 202-224-3121 and tell them why independent restaurants and bars need the RESTAURANTS Act — and how it would help save millions of jobs nationwide. Use our new advocacy guide to familiarize yourself with our latest talking points.

1 MORE MINUTE?
Forward this information to friends, family members, or colleagues and invite them to sign up for our movement to #SaveRestaurants.

Thanks for helping us reach the light at the end of the tunnel,

The IRC Team

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Heart To Cart & Server Not Servant Fundraising Partnership

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 2/10/2021

I’ve never been a public person to celebrate my own birthday on social media, let alone a ‘Happy’ birthday human… My birthday (today, 2/10) is different this year, as I’m using the opportunity to launch a partnership between my book project, Server Not Servant and my friend, Thomas O’Keefe’s (aka @BostonTweet) work with Heart To Cart and Stride for Stride.  I was inspired by the grass roots, direct-impact good that Tom and his team are doing.

Heart to Cart provides $100 supermarket gift cards for people in the Boston area who need help buying food and groceries during the pandemic. Heart to Cart supports Chelsea Collaborative in Chelsea, MA and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.

Stride for Stride is a running charity that buys race bibs for immigrant, BIPOC, and low-income runners to make races more inclusive and diverse.

My mission is to raise at least $5k of the total goal of $150k by May 1, 2021. Please consider even a small , TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation and/or share the link below everywhere you can between now and the end of April. Please click on the link for more info and to donate. If inspired to help further, you can also click on “I want to fundraise for this” on the donation page.

Lastly, please contact me with additional ideas to help us reach our goals. Grateful for your help.

Thank you-Patrick

Fundraising Link

#Boston #HeartToCart #StrideForStride
Content within the link:

Heart to Cart has partnered with Server Not Servant to deliver $100 supermarket gift cards to people in the Boston area who need help buying food.

Heart to Cart, a program of Stride for Stride, was created in April 2020 to purchase supermarket gift cards for those struggling the most during the pandemic.

Server Not Servant is a blog and book in progress advocating for service industry workers everywhere, and ‘A Case for Human-to-Human Service, Empathy, & Decency’.

After this campaign concludes at the end of March, Patrick & Tom will purchase $100 supermarket gift cards to hand deliver to people in need in the Boston area.

Since April 2020, Heart to Cart has supported families in Revere, Everett, Lynn, East Boston, Mattapan, and Chelsea with over $40,000 in supermarket gift cards. Heart to Cart also works closely with The Chelsea Collaborative and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to support immigrant families who have been hit extremely hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for your support,

Patrick Maguire – Server Not Servant

Tom O’Keefe – Heart to Cart

Heart to Cart is a program of Stride for Stride – a Boston-based 501(c)(3) charity that strives to increase inclusion and diversity in running by buying race bibs for immigrant, BIPOC and low-income runners. Donations are tax-deductible.

*80% of all donations are used to purchase supermarket gift cards, and 20% supports Stride for Stride’s mission of making races more diverse and more inclusive for immigrant, BIPOC, and low-income runners.

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Should We Trust the ‘New’ Phantom Gourmet?

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 8/31/2020

It was only a matter of time.

You find out people’s true colors by their consistent actions over time, not just by what they say, but by what they do. Of course, people who are truly open to critical thinking, life-long learning, and opportunity can change.

It’s been more than nine and a half years since the infamous Phantom Gourmet radio program when Michael Andelman made the following comments about a hostess at Grill 23 in Boston:

“We walk in and the hostess who’s the typical hot woman, rude, cold- as-ice, never would talk to me in high school-type girl…”

“Danny, the fact that you consistently take the side of the restaurateur or just a really stupid maître d’ or a hostess over your family time and time again…”

“And it’s not like this was 8pm on a Saturday night. It’s 5 o’clock, and guess what, if the owner of Grill 23 was standing next to this dumb hostess, this moronic hostess who was just getting her, uh, jollies off by sticking to the rules of her little brochure in a little binder, this little monkey, her only job is to look at this binder and say don’t let people in ‘till 5:30….”

“There’s not a hostess who’s not good-looking, because they’re incompetent and can’t do anything else in life. If you can’t model, when you’re good-looking enough and not tall enough to model, you stand behind a little box and say, How many?”

During that radio program, Dan Andelman asked Michael and his father, Eddie, “How did she look from the back?”

On 2/25/11, I published a blog post, To Mike and Dan Andelman: A Call for a Public Apology.

In that post, I included the content of an email I sent to the Andelman brothers, including the email address of everyone I could track down who worked at the TV station that aired their program. Excerpts from my email:

“You had a week between radio shows to reflect on your comments that were posted on the 96.9 website (2/12/11 Eddie and Mike go to a Celtics game), and to consider issuing a public apology on your 2/19 program. You failed to do that, and mysteriously the audio has been removed from the 96.9 website.

The only public comments I have seen from either one of you are in a piece by Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein in The Boston Globe on 2/23:”

“Phantom Gourmet” host Mike Andelman is surprised by the online criticism concerning comments he made on “The Phantom Gourmet” radio show about restaurant hostesses. Ranting about a Grill 23 hostess who wouldn’t seat him in the dining room before the dinner hour began, Andleman said all restaurant hostesses are attractive but incompetent. Yesterday, he told us the comments were meant to be facetious. “Our radio show is obviously satire,”…

As I noted in my follow-up blog post on 3/14/11, Dan did apologize on their 2/26/11 radio show:

Dan: “I apologize for my rude, insensitive comment about her back.” [To Dan’s credit, he did sound sincere.]

During that same radio program, Dave (returning from vacation) reacted to a replay of the original, offensive radio segment:

Dave: [No acknowledgement of Mike’s ‘dumb’, ‘moron’ and ‘monkey’ comments.] I don’t even think it’s interesting enough for us to be replaying it on our own show. [3 brothers laughing hysterically] I’m waiting for the bomb to drop. That was it? That’s what you had to bother me for in Aruba and all week?

Therein lies the problem. By virtue of ignoring the offensive comments, and supporting his brothers, Dave now joins Mike and Dan in thinking it’s ok to make and defend disingenuous, odious remarks.

Dan: Michael, now that we’ve heard it, do you have something to say to New England?

Michael: I do. Number one, um, I, if I do find out who the hostess is at Grill 23, and the Boston Globe says they’re not sure who it is, ok, I’ve talked with my wife, um, I want to ask the hostess on a date. I have a hall pass if she would like to go out with me. I will take her out for dinner, for dancing…

I don’t know Danny, you are always the ombudsman of this program. Dad said something about winos, you talked about her [hostess] wearing yoga pants and I called her a moronic hostess. You tell me Danny, you’ve got the final word.

Dan: Frankly, not even in the top hundred offensive or amusing segments we’ve ever done.

Dave: No, there’s nothing even remotely interesting about it.

Dave: They [The Globedo sort of try to claim there’s a massive online controversy. That’s just not factually accurate. There’s like 4 guys talking to each other online, I mean that’s ridiculous.

Mike: I do apologize when I said all hostesses are moronic and stupid, and I do 100% apologize. I’m not including the average-looking ones who do a very good job. [Dan laughs hysterically.] I am only talking about the hot ones who have no idea…

Mike wasted the opportunity to do the right thing and sincerely apologize. Instead, he made a mockery of his misogyny. As I noted in my 3/14/11 blog post:

None of the hundreds of current and former restaurant industry workers who contacted me over the last few weeks is buying Mike’s childish, “I was just kidding, I’m just a jackass” defense. Everyone remotely involved with the restaurant community, with any credibility, understands exactly what the Andelmans are all about. Introspection and decency are lost on them. Their long-standing reputation for crassness and classless behavior has been bolstered by this incident.

But it wasn’t Michael’s pre-#MeToo antics, and Dave and Dan’s enabling comments that put the Phantom Gourmet TV program in the penalty box. After Dave wrote a series of Facebook posts mocking recent protests against racial injustice, the Phantom Gourmet TV program was temporarily shut down. According to Boston Magazine on 6/15/20:

“Dave Andelman has resigned as CEO of Phantom Gourmet, effective immediately. Per a post on the Phantom Gourmet Facebook page, Andelman will no longer appear on episodes of the TV show, will not be involved in any day-to-day operations, and will relinquish his ownership in the company. He will also resign from the Mendon Twin Drive-In. Dan Andelman, who co-hosted the program with his brother Dave, will take over as CEO.”

This isn’t the first time that the three Andelman brothers, who are all involved in the Phantom Gourmet empire and also co-own the popular Mendon Twin Drive-In movie theater, have been swept up in controversy. In 2011, Mike Andelman made headlines after an appearance on the Phantom Gourmet radio show in which he called a hostess who refused to seat him early at Grill 23 “a little monkey” and added that restaurant hostesses are often attractive because “they’re incompetent and can’t do anything else in life.”

After more than 2 months “on hiatus,” programming of Phantom Gourmet resumed on Saturday, 8/29/20. According to CBS Boston on 8/28/20:

“We’re going to look at this as the ultimate teaching moment. We’ve listened, and we’ve learned. And I think once we could put our actions to positively affect the community, I think we can really do some good,” said Dan Andelman.

Andelman says those actions include a complete overhaul of the company’s culture. At the helm of diversity and inclusion training will be community activist Tito Jackson, who’ll also help Phantom use its platform to elevate minority owned businesses.

“We are looking at an extended, at least year-long engagement, to do executive coaching, working with the actual staff, [we’ll be] looking at hiring,” Jackson said. “The real objective is working with people who are going to hold them to the grindstone when it comes to doing the right thing over the course of time. And changing the show, so the show is a reflection of the folks that are in the community.”

When Dan Andelman posted on his personal Facebook page on Saturday morning, 8/29/20, “See you on TV today,” I added the comment, It will be interesting to see if new programming is preceded by a long-overdue apology to the Grill 23 hostess and all hostesses denigrated by Michael on the old radio program, and for Daves’s tone deaf mockery of Black Lives Matter. Now is the perfect ‘teachable moment’ to take responsibility and genuinely apologize, instead of the old, “We were just kidding” excuse… I also attached my old blog post from 3/14/11. [To Dan’s credit, he did not delete my post.]

I recorded and watched the openings, closings, and most of the programming of the 5 Phantom Gourmet segments aired over the weekend. They all appeared to be repeats. None of them included an opening apology or statement about why they were shut down, or what they have “learned” during their ‘sabbatical.’ Another lost opportunity to demonstrate genuine remorse.

What I did see was a segment stating that, “The Phantom Gourmet supports black-owned restaurants like 50Kitchen in Dorchester,… Medford’s Neighborhood Kitchen,… and Suya Joint in Roxbury… Help preserve Boston’s black history and businesses at BlackHospitalityco.com.”

Questions remain:

  1. Will anyone at Phantom Gourmet issue an apology or statement before their first new, original episode?
  2. Will Michael Andelman ever genuinely apologize for his misogynist comments and degradation of women?
  3. Is the latest PR from Phantom Gourmet tokenism or are they sincere in their “complete overhaul of the company’s culture?”
  4. Will Dave continue to be compensated by PG, despite his public relinquishing of ownership? [Most probably.]

As I noted in my tweet over the weekend, We’ll see……..

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