Normally, public service announcements aren't something we do, but we couldn't pass on this one:
If you happen to be passing through Arroyo Grande, California, Doc Burnstein's Ice Cream Lab is an old fashioned ice cream parlor owned by 46-year old Navy vet Greg Steinberger that, according to the LA Times, also happens to be the target of union "bannering"...Not for something Mr. Steinberger has done directly mind you, but because he is opening a store in a mall that has used a non-union drywall company.
For years, the owner of Arroyo Grande's old-fashioned ice cream parlor has likened the Central Coast community to Bedford Falls, the friendly little burg in the Jimmy Stewart film "It's a Wonderful Life."
So he bristled when an out-of-town labor union unfurled a 15-foot-wide banner -- "Shame on Doc Burnstein's Ice Cream Lab" -- across from his business on cafe-lined West Branch Street.
Even more upsetting to Greg Steinberger was the flier showing a rat gnawing on a tattered American flag: It charged him with "desecration of the American way of life."
And most galling to the 46-year-old Navy veteran was that the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America had targeted him over the allegedly low wages of a company he says he had never even heard of.
"I don't know what it'll take to get them to go away," said Steinberger, who, in labor jargon, has been "bannered" since Oct. 30. "I've got customers coming in here asking, 'Are you in trouble? Aren't you paying minimum wage?' "
In Arroyo Grande, paid sign-minders* stand beside the banner across the street from Doc Burnstein's four days a week, sometimes shielded from the sun by blue-and-white umbrellas.
According to the fliers, the carpenters are bannering Doc Burnstein's because Steinberger plans to open an outlet in a renovated Santa Maria mall where a nonunion drywall company "does not meet area labor standards . . . including fully paying for family health benefits and pensions." A gymnastics studio in Santa Maria is getting the same treatment.
Representatives of Camarillo-based Carpenters Local 150, which is bannering Doc Burnstein's, did not return phone calls. But the ice cream parlor's fans have been vocal about wishing the carpenters a rocky road.
"I told one of them, 'If you're not going to hell, I don't know who is,' " Lynette Navarro said. "Imagine hurting an ice cream guy whose crime is daring to sign a lease at the mall!"
After the bannering began, irate customers wanted to mount a counter-protest. Steinberger said he consented only because the union action continued through one of his bimonthly blood drives.
"That just really ticked me off," said Steinberger, who offers a pint of ice cream to every blood donor.
Some two dozen sign-wielding Doc Burnstein's supporters showed up. Navarro, owner of a Grover Beach awning company, donated a banner as big as the union's: "We [heart] Doc Burnstein's! No Labor Dispute!" A union representative came to heckle, according to Steinberger, and to videotape the protesters' reactions.
It's hard to tell, Steinberger said, whether the bannering has slowed his business. But Gabe Segura, owner of the action's primary target -- United Drywall Systems -- said it's hurting his 10-employee company.
"They've threatened, they manipulated, they've gone to my employees' house at night, asking for copies of check stubs," Segura said. "They want to deter people from using us, and there's definitely certain jobs that don't want the publicity." [Emphasis added.]
So, if you ever happen to be passing through Arroyo Grande, CA and get the hankering for an ice cream cone, Doc Burnstein's is dishing it out at 114 W. Branch Street, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420.
[* Note: Rather than doing its own picketing or 'sign minding,' it appears that the Carpenters' union has hired picketers (or "sign minders"), which seems to be its modus operandi.]
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine December 23, 1776
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