PoP Ed. – Clarification, Accountability and a New Direction by John Andrade

meridian_pint

John Andrade is owner of Meridian Pint.

Ed. Note: Meridian Pint is a PoPville advertiser. PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

Clarification, Accountability and a New Direction

Over the past 10 days the topic of Paid Sick Leave for Employees has become a hot button issue in DC politics. Last week, when called by a reporter from DCist, I was asked about my position on paid sick leave for tipped employees. I made the unfortunate mistake of speaking on this topic without being fully aware of this law and most importantly, how my staff truly felt on this topic. I was quoted as saying:

“I do my very best as the principal owner to take care of my staff above and beyond what I would argue is 99 percent of the restaurants in the industry, and I do very well at that. But when it comes to the government mandating that I take care of paying my employees in their absence, whether it be from being sick or emergencies or other issues that may arise, I’m not in favor of the government mandating it.”

I would like to apologize for those that I may have offended, most importantly my staff, but the fact is that I love my community and I love my staff even more. While I am not perfect, I would never expect anyone to work when they are sick or otherwise not able to work. I have always worked with our staff in these situations. I would prefer that staff members take the necessary time to get well. However, despite all my good intentions and great track record with the community, local charities and environmental sustainability, I have fallen short on the most important part of Meridian Pint, my staff. I am sorry to you all.

After reading the quote from another restaurant owner who said “paid sick leave is an expense that he and his counterparts can afford” I realized that he is right. While I believe that many restaurants in DC can barely afford to stay open, much less pay for sick leave, Meridian Pint is a great example of a restaurant that can and should afford to go above and beyond this law. Therefore, as of this week Meridian Pint will now offer paid sick leave to all of its employees including tipped employees.

The truth is, that the ‘Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008’ is one of the most important laws that restaurants must abide by yet most of us in the industry are not aware of it and often overlook it. The attention that has been brought to my doorstep this past week has opened my eyes to the seriousness and magnitude of this oversight. I have become the poster child for so many of us in the restaurant industry who overlook the most basic needs and rights of our staff members. Our staff members are the life of our restaurants and without their good health and commitment we would not exist.

I hope that all of my poor decisions up to and including this past week serve as a
wake up call to all my fellow restaurant owners. We cannot drive our businesses forward without taking care of the most important part of our business, our staff.

I would again like to apologize to my staff for overlooking your most important
needs, your health and your income. Moving forward I will promise to always put
you all first above all other concerns. I would also like to apologize to my
community for not following through on my pledge to be the best gathering place in Columbia Heights. I have let you down and for that I am sorry.

70 Comment

  • Typical management perspective. Kudos to the staff at MP who apparently spoke up enough and loud enough to make the owner back down.

    • justinbc

      Really? I don’t find humility at all typical of restaurant managers. Cheers to this guy for actually realizing he made a mistake and owning up to it, something few people seem to do anymore.

      • I remember, back in the old days, when caps were worn the right way forward, doublets were the newest fashion, gentlemen wore wigs when out of doors, and everyone immediately owned up to whatever mistake they had made. Ah for the halycon days of yore…

  • I commend the owner for his willingness to reevaluate his original position and approach this issue from the standpoint of his employees and other restaurant and tipped workers. It takes even more courage to correct himself publicly. I hope that he can serve as an example to other restaurant owners in the District.

  • saf

    Wow.

    I love your staff (both at the Pint and at Smoke and Barrel). I’m glad you appreciate them too.

    I used to tend bar, and wait tables. And I worked sick plenty of times, because if you didn’t show, even if you called in, you were fired. And I needed the money.

    I appreciate knowing this.

  • Bravo! I love Meridian Pint, but when I read the earlier quote, I was going to stop patronizing it.

    • Seconded. And I was going to stop going not just because he didn’t pay sick leave, (a sad but not unreasonable position if the competition doesn’t either) but because he was vocally opposed to it. Now I’m adding him to my list of awesome places I seek out that voluntarily pay sick leave: Busboys & Poets, the Jose Andres line, and of course, Ben’s Chilibowl.

  • Is that why you forced all your asylum employees to reapply for their jobs at smoke & barrell? Because you love them so much?

    • Is this true? Sounds like an abhorrent move on part of the owner. While I love the beer, I’ll certainly have second thoughts before I patronize either establishment. There are many great alternatives out there.

      • It is true, he did make the mall re-apply. I think that it had a lot more to do with changing the management team completely and letting the new team hire their own staff. If I am not mistaken, they all got to interview first.

  • BRAVO! BRAVO! Thank you for doing the right thing. Its right for your business, for your employees, and for your customers.

  • Congratulations on offering paid sick leave to your employees.

    To clarify the law you mention about five paragraphs in, the law passed in 2008 included a loophole that exempts tipped employees. Do you support closing that loophole?

  • Great news! Being forced to work while sick/ or take the day off and impact your monthly income is a pretty crappy decision making spot to have to be in.

  • alphatango

    As a long time patron of Johny’s establishments, I can only agree that he has always treated his employees with the highest regard. As only one example, I have seen employees leave only to come back to work for him because of how valued they feel working for him.

  • How does this connect to Patrick Mara’s candidacy for DC Council?

    Mara had a role in Meridian Pint and ads against Mara have been very specifically targeted at the issue of paid sick leave.

    Anyone want to clarify this? I’m not bringing it up for good or ill, just because it is apropos.

    • Mara had suggested that he was against paid sick days at restaurants because as a former investor in Meridian Pint it would’ve been too burdensome to his business.

      • ^^^ Pretty sure I know who both of you are…Anonymous for the grammar and Luddofthefuture for the handle lol

        • Who do you think I am? It would be interesting to think I was so identifiable by the way I write!

  • Subtext of this is that we should cheer those in government who have been pushing it. Libertarian owner at first considered it a mandate, then realized it was the right thing to do. Proposed legislation set the chain of events that helped change his mind. A point, for once, for effective government.

  • I think seeing over 260 signatures on the petition about this was what prompted the apology more than anything else:

    https://www.change.org/petitions/john-andrade-meridian-pint-we-urge-meridian-pint-to-change-its-paid-sick-days-policy-3

    • Whether that may be the case, it is still a thoughtful apology, and seems sincere. It goes well beyond the half-apologies or non-apology apologies we often see when someone realizes something they said was bad p.r.

    • As someone with knowledge of the situation, it had nothing to do with this petition. A large portion of the names on this petition do not even live in DC. This is a direct result of John speaking with his managers, employees, and the community of Columbia Heights.

    • Exactly. Reeks of dis ingenuousness as he clearly is only doing the “right” thing because he mouthed off.

  • Congratulations on evolving and seeing the light. I like Meridian Pint – and even more today.

  • Major kudos to Meridian Pint owner John Andrade for having the courage to change his mind. Are their other POPville restaurants that refuse to offer their employees paid sick leave? Could Popville help us find those employers?

    • Every single restaurant you fucking people eat at! MP becomes part of the 1% that now DOES offer their tipped employees sick leave.

      • justinbc

        Yeah, considering the law doesn’t actually require them to do so I would have to assume that most don’t. MP is actually going above and beyond the law to now offer this to their employees.

    • I believe someone mentioned them in a comment below, but the Restaurant Opportunities Center is a restaurant-workers advocacy group that addresses working conditions in the restaurant industry; they may have some leads http://rocunited.org/dc/

    • @Jess it’s not just the DC restaurant industry,there are owners of businesses in DC that employee upwards of 200+ employees in multiple locations that are ignoring the law and refuse to implement it.It would be nice if there was some sort of accountability so these businesses wouldn’t be able to get by with breaking the law and caring less for their employees.Fear of job loss keeps their employees quiet about the issue.

  • Great job Meridian Pint! I’m happy to have you in the neighborhood and happy to have neighbors that respectfully brought the issue to Mr. Andrade’s attention. Score one for civil community dialogue!

  • Good job to ROC and DC Jobs With Justice for holding his feet to the fire! So many businesses try to position themselves as nd good for the city, green or socially responsible but when push comes to shove, it’s only a marketing ploy.

    Good on Mr. Andrade to realize that his employees make or break his business. I know that good wait staff and helpful bartenders are an important part of chosing a restaurant. I’m glad he has decided to invest in his people.

  • Now, who do I talk to about mushy onion rings?

    • So… the person to address that issue with would be me… However, we haven’t had onion rings on the menu since January of 2012, mainly because as our business expanded I couldn’t maintain the quality on hand dipped beer battered onion rings. A couple do appear as a garnish on the Mixed Fried Pickled Vegetable plate, but our volume is not the same. So, not sure when you ordered onion rings last, but it was a long time ago.

  • Bravo! Thank you for doing right by your staff and your loyal customers! Party Meridian Pint!!

  • Good for Mr. Andrade and the staff both. The latter for sticking up for themselves and the former for being a good human being and listening to his staff. I worked in the industry for years and you basically weren’t allowed to get sick if you were going to survive.

  • John, I applaud your reversal. As a big fan of your restaurants, it’s awesome to see you take the right stand on this.

  • This is excellent timing for the Mara campaign. Oh wait, I would never imagine that the scrutiny of Mara’s position and the owner’s reversal of opinion has anything to do with each other? If Mara wasn’t running for office the owner would have done the same thing right? Hard to fathom one event being remotely connected to the other…

  • Thanks for listening! I didn’t want to stop going to Meridian Pint, and now I don’t have to!

    • justinbc

      You do realize that almost every restaurant follows suit with what he was originally saying? If that was your objection then it seriously hinders the number of places you can now eat.

  • I believe this comic sums up my position perfectly.

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2878

  • Judging by the posted comments, this has only reinforced confusion on this issue regarding tipped workers for many — but does underscore the correctness of allowing business owners to make this decision without a mandate for tipped employees.

    Hate to throw cold water on everyone’s reactions, but tipped employees are paid $2.77 per hour, which nearly zeroes out for most of us after tax withholds. So, the “take home pay” on a paid sick leave shift is just about that — zero.

    So, in reality, while a tipped employee MIGHT take advantage of a paid sick leave policy, most will continue to do what is done now — switch shifts with a co-worker to preserve actual income.

    Just an important clarification about the effect in this instance and why including tipped workers under the law doesn’t really do anything to help tipped employees.

    Just sayin’.

    • You are mis-informed about your point. In the district any business that has tipped employees must ensure that the employee makes minimum wage. If your tips don’t equal minimum wage, the business must make up the difference. As a tipped employee who takes a sick day, you would get at least minimum wage for the time missed. That will probably fall well shy of the amount of money you woud have made on your shift, but it isn’t $2.77.

    • “underscore the correctness of allowing business owners to make this decision without a mandate for tipped employees.”

      No it does not. Not at all.

  • Ok, next issue for MP: remove those awful Christmas lights from the outside of the building. It’s April.

  • I think it’s great that Mr. Andrade has changed his mind, and done so publicly. I’d just like to point out that paid sick leave is important to some of your customers, as well. I don’t want a sick waiter breathing over my food, or standing at the table chatting with me. MP has a really nice staff, but I’d just as soon they stay home and get well.

    I imagine that’s true for the coworkers, too. I hate it when one of my coworkers decides he is so indispensable that he has to come into the office when he’s sick and spread his germs all over the office.

  • Fantastic! Thanks for doing the right thing – and I will continue to be a patron.

  • This is amazing, will be very happy to continue supporting your restaurant. I hope this becomes the new trend.

  • I’m very happy about this move, and I do hope that other restaurants will indeed follow his example. But I can’t get past the air of slight narcissism. I mean, listen to this guy… “I have become the poster child for so many of us in the restaurant industry”… are you even allowed to refer to yourself as a poster child?

  • When people and especially businesses do the right thing, it is important we commend and recognize that. Thank you John Andrade for listening! I live in Mt. Pleasant and really like Meridian Pint so I am happy I can feel good about going there.

  • Funny what you pick up when you go to the source article. In that piece, Andrade says the following:
    “Andrade said that even if sick leave were mandated, the hourly wage of $2.77 doesn’t return much after taxes are taken out. As such, he prefers to work with his employees to let them make up lost time by working other shifts.”
    So basically, he was slammed not because he wants sick employees to choose between sitting home sick without pay or working while sick, but because he would rather work with an employee in a way that allows the employee to make their full pay, as opposed to whatever (presumably much smaller) amount the employee would make through paid sick leave. That doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me. Granted that there will be circumstances where an illness prevents an employee from switching shifts with someone else. But query how many of his employees will opt for the smaller sick leave pay over full pay via switching shifts.
    In any event, no restaurant, bar, or place where food and/or drinks are consumed should have sick workers on the premises . It’s nasty.

    • Your point about the flexibility is well-taken–if I worked in a restaurant, I would appreciate the opportunity to switch shifts and not have to forgo my tip income. But shift-swapping and paid sick days aren’t mutually exclusive benefits. Why not offer both options? If it’s true that the overwhelming majority of employees would opt to switch a shift instead of take the paid leave anyway, then logically, the impact on a restaurant’s bottom line would be negligible…so why the resistance to offering the leave option?

  • Is this policy also going to apply to the staff at Smoke and Barrel? I assume Meridian Pint is much more profitable, so it might be less financially easy to pull off at Smoke and Barrel. But, I live closer to Smoke and Barrel and am more likely to eat there, so I’d be curious if he’s applying this policy at all his bars.

  • austindc

    I have worked a lot of jobs where there was no sick time, so I think this is a really nice thing for Meridian Pint to do. I also love Meridian Pint. Like, deep down inside. And in my swimsuit region. Keep up the great work guys.

  • I don’t see why this is an issue for anyone besides the owner and his employees. I really don’t care what benefits or pay a business offers its employees — as long as I get a good produce/service at a good price it’s none of my concern. I don’t begrudge businesses for offering their employees as little as possible, just as I don’t begrudge employees for trying to get paid as much as possible and jumping ship for better opportunties.

  • It’s not whether the owner wants to pay their staff for sick leave, it’s if customers value healthy food workers enough to pay the price of paid sick leave.

    MP has made the decision to run on tighter margins, and over the long term raise prices higher, in order to, in effect, raise the pay of their employees. Most places don’t.

    Any business that goes beyond the requirements of the law to improve benefits for their employees should be commended.

    Demand for food is extremely elastic. The only way to encourage more businesses to do what MP has done is to reward them in the marketplace.

    If the marketplace would allow it, most business owners would pay higher wages and offer better benefits. However, most consumers are extremely price sensitive.

    I wish we lived in a world that consumers are willing to pay prices so that workers can earn a living wage without tips or government mandates. But we don’t. However, when you want to blame the business owner for being greedy… Just remember, it’s actually you and every other consumer that is greedy. You don’t want to pay an extra 50 cents for anything.

    • justinbc

      Agree with quite a bit of this.

      I would much rather live in a world where servers are actually paid a salary commensurate to the level of the restaurant, rather than working off of tips. This is not really because I don’t want to tip, as I would be happy with that cost going into higher menu prices, but because I feel like there are many servers out there who struggle to get by (although I also know several who pull six figures, so it is possible, just infrequent).

  • I’ve never worked in the restaurant industry, but I think PTO for tipped workers is well worth it. Happy employees = happy customers = happy owners. Kudos to Meridian Pint for making the right decision. But one question: will you pay tipped employees sick leave at their tipped employee wage rate? That would end up being only about $20 a shift right? I hope you pay them a proper minimum wage during their PTO.

  • Well it’s takes a big man to own up to a mistake. I would have never eaten at MP because of Pat Mara’s connection to the establishment, but now knowing that he’s out and the owner is on board with paid sick leave…I’ll be in to have dinner and drinks and tip those server well. Thanks for your brave move!

  • Cheers to the owner for seeing why the law was passed with the greatest of intentions and implementing it. Cheers to his staff for being brave and standing up for what is right, by law. Now, if this owner could just get all the other “locally-owned” DC business owners in retail and the restaurant industry to follow the law that would be a huge step. Prominent, in the news, DC small business owners are not following this law and their employees are afraid to bring it up. It isn’t right, and the law is being ignored.

  • We all know that on bottom of their heart, all they care is about money and profit (The reason why he said what he said) but We all can make the difference by choosing where we spend our DOLLARS. And YEA the human asset is the MOST important they will ever have. SMDH

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