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First Avenue in Minneapolis Agrees to Accept Unionization of Staff

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The owner of one of the country’s most recognizable independent venue companies has agreed to accept a petition on behalf of its bartenders, ID checkers, ticket collectors and floor staff to unionize.

Dayne Frank, president and CEO of First Avenue Productions which owns the famed First Avenue venue and operates six other venue locations in the Twin Cities area, was presented with petition from more than 200 employees earlier this month asking the company to recognize efforts to unionize as part of UNITE HERE Local 17, Minnesota’s hospitality workers’ union. UNITE HERE has about 300,000 members nationwide and is a member of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

“We recognize that our employees are a key to our success,” Frank said in a statement sent to Billboard, “and it is why we have continually worked to provide them competitive pay, health insurance for anyone working more than 25 hours per week, 401k matching contributions, and more. So when bartenders, service, and event staff expressed their desire to form a union, there was only one answer, which is why we will voluntarily recognize the union, and are committed to bargaining in good faith.”

Employees at First Avenue Productions, which include staff from 7th Street Entry, the Fitzgerald Theater, the Palace Theatre, the Turf Club, Fine Line and the Depot Tavern, began organizing earlier this year through the city’s Restaurant Opportunities Center as part of an effort to address staff disagreements over pay, scheduling and training.

On Nov. 2, more than 70% of the company’s employees voted in favor of moving forward with unionization through UNITE HERE. Frank is expected to begin contact negotiations with UNITE Here in the coming weeks.

“Bargaining in good faith will require everyone to look at the challenges we face as a whole, and how we can strengthen our workplace, incorporate more perspectives, and ultimately move forward together,” Frank said. “While this might be difficult, and will inevitably result in change, I am committed to working together to address those challenges.”

Frank is also a founding board member of the National Independent Venue Association and as the group’s former president led successful efforts to petition the federal government for billions of dollars in relief aid for thousands independent venues facing closure due to COVID-19, including those managed by First Avenue Productions which received more than $17 million from the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant program. The federal aid program is widely credited with preventing the collapse of the independent venue industry.

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