In 1517, Martin Luther with the Protestant Reformation nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the doors of All Saints' Church and other churches of Wittenburg as a criticism of the Catholic Church indulgences system. He reproduced them with the new technological discovery of his era: the printing press. He also sent it to the Archbishop of Mainz directly and «later Reformers made heavy use of inexpensive pamphlets as well as vernacular Bibles, so there was swift movement of both ideas and documents» (Rubin, "Printing and Protestants" Review of Economics and Statistics pp. 270–286).
Since cooks are often to work and their access to technology is often limited for few hours due to their manual work, I thought that a physical paper put on-site at their workplace would have a greater impact. Kitchen could never be replaced with digitalised realities in that sense.
Also, the different restaurant industry associations on the provincial and federal levels are expensive groupings providing mostly economical charts, price reductions, basic training programs, and law regulations. As of the human side of the work in the kitchen, none of them adress directly drug addictions and high level of alcoholism in the kitchens, depression caused by workplace atmosphere or burnouts, only few like the Alberta association and hotels would offer work benefits like dental plans and retirement savings plans. Abuses happen when the rights are not defended.
Association des Restaurateurs du Québec (ARQ)
The project was to write a Manifesto for a Better Future in Montreal Restaurant Industry in Quebec in both French and English and to post printed versions of it on restaurant doors overnight all over Montreal. I managed to post up to 150 posters between 11pm and 6am last Monday night. I also sent the manifesto by mail to Québec and Canada Restaurant Associations.
The leftist/socialist connotations of this publication and its unusual ways of distribution will probably impact its reception through the restaurant industry. I do not hope for any positive improvements in the industry related to the reception of this letter, but to simply create some reflection the manifesto is thrown in the garbage, a place where most pamphlet end their life.
Manifesto for a Better Future In Quebec Restaurant Industry
Cooks are present in every city on the planet. It is up to this day one of the most accessible job. And still, the long working hours, low salary, the lack of future prospects are still archaic. For a more human way to live a career as a cook, here is a simple list of reclamations toward all the workers in the restaurant industry in Quebec:
-Let’s get out of the Middle Age. Enough slavery! Lets claim our right to defend our working conditions in our kitchens.
-We work too much for not enough hourly salary. No to working weeks of 70-80-90… hours! Let’s hire a bigger team, pay it better a maximum of 10 to 12 hours maximum a day!
-Cooks, dishwashers and waiters, let’s demand for a minimum of 15$ hourly. We often live too close from the poverty line!
-Let’s divide equally customers tips between waiters and cooks. The quality of the customer experience depends as much as the service as what is in the plate.
-Our gouvernement must support finally Quebec multicultural gastronomy pioneers. Enough money lost on casinos! Restaurant too often works on a too-tight budget.
-Let’s deconstruct hierarchy in the kitchen, based on ego and promotion frustrations. Experience and shared knowledge are the most essential to do a good service.
-Each restaurant should create a employee union to allow fair talks between bosses and employees. Enough unpaid salaries and job firing by the back door!
-Let’s have chefs who are present on-site everyday, pedagogical and ready for improvement.
-Let’s demand for a safe, clean and functional kitchen No to broken kitchen tools and machines, installations not renovated since 20 years ago, working spaces badly conceived!
-Let’s have a service team who are flexible and know how to communicate with the cooks.
-Let’s build a Pooled Saving for retirement in the restaurant industry workers in Quebec, established according to the length of one’s career and its knowledge on savings plans.
-Each chef should have a management class on how to lead healthily his kitchen staff and how to manage his budget on a long-term basis. No to destructive and despotic chefs!
-Let’s promote physical activity and health during and outside work hours! To work in the restaurant industry gives you muscle, but doesn’t put you in shape.
-Lets’s find alternative to weed and beers to cool down after our shifts. We are slowly destroying our health.
We had some echoes from this performance, the HRI magazine wanted an interview to reassure the restaurants who received the manifesto, that no violence would be made on their restaurant, as it is very common this year that they are attacked during the night. Also, some new unions wrote to us to thanks us for our efforts:
Bonjour Mme Maheux,
Je me présente, Guillaume Laplante-Anfossi, suiteur au Laurie Raphaël Montréal depuis 1 an et demi.
Je vous écris spontanément, suite à la lecture de l’article dans le HRI magazine relatant vos récentes prises de positions et actions (http://www.hrimag.com/Tracts-colles-sur-150-restaurants-montrealais-Je-voulais-provoquer-le-debat#.WV7zd8mMvd4.facebook) visant un changement des conditions en cuisine au Québec.
Je souhaitais d’abord vous exprimer ma solidarité et mon accord profond avec les valeurs que vous portez. Il y a des choses inacceptables actuellement en cuisine, et même dans les plus grands restaurants!
Il y a plusieurs mois, mes collègues du Laurie Raphaël Montréal et moi avons entamé une démarche de syndicalisation, qui a abouti le 25 avril dernier. À vrai dire, je vous écris même aujourd’hui à titre de président syndical de notre unité (nous sommes affiliés au syndicat des Métallos). Peut-être en avez-vous entendu parlé, les journaux ont un peu relayé la nouvelle (http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2017/05/14/les-employes-du-restaurant-laurie-raphael-de-montreal-sont-syndiques), et je sais que le milieu est petit et que ces choses se parlent!
Nous sommes actuellement en train de rédiger un premier modèle de convention collective, appelé à être ratifié par les employés dans les prochaines semaines, en vue des négociations qui débuteront vraisemblablement à la fin de l’été. J’ai grand espoir que nous parvenions à une première entente négociée, ce qui établirait à ma connaissance un précédent en haute gastronomie.
J’espère que nous serons en mesure de donner l’exemple et d’inspirer d’autres restaurants à notre suite. Il y a beaucoup d’enjeux qui doivent être discutés dans le milieu, et je crois que nous pourrons en aborder plusieurs dans notre première convention.
Dans tous les cas, je vous encourage à continuer sur votre voie, informez-moi de vos actions s’il y en a; je tâcherai de faire de même de mon côté!