La charcuterie Bens, située à l’angle des rues Metcalfe et de Maisonneuve, est une véritable institution montréalaise. Fondé en 1908, le restaurant célébrera son centenaire dans deux ans. Malheureusement, il est aujourd’hui menacé de fermeture. Excédés par des conditions de travail dangereuses et dégradantes, les employé-es de Bens font la grève depuis le 20 juillet afin que les propriétaires réinvestissent dans des équipements essentiels de restauration, soit un grille-pain, des assiettes et des ustensiles, du chauffage en hiver et de la climatisation en été.
L’employeur refuse catégoriquement de négocier quelque amélioration que ce soit. Les employé-es et la clientèle craignent que nous soyons en train de perdre encore un autre élément qui fait de Montréal une ville unique au monde.
Compte tenu que la charcuterie Bens est plus qu’un restaurant, qu’elle est un endroit d’une grande valeur historique et touristique à Montréal ;
Nous, soussignés, demandons aux propriétaires de la charcuterie Bens de négocier de bonne foi avec leurs employé-es afin de rouvrir ce restaurant dans les plus brefs délais.
Situated on the downtown corner of Metcalfe and de Maisonneuve, Ben’s Delicatessen is a true Montreal institution. Founded in 1908, the restaurant could celebrate its centennial in two years. Sadly, however, Ben’s Deli is threatened with closure. Exasperated by dangerous and degrading working conditions, the restaurant’s workers have been on strike since July 20. They are fighting for a reinvestment in the basic tools of the trade: a toaster, sufficient plates and utensils, adequate heating in winter and air conditioning in the summer.
But the employer is refusing to negotiate any improvement whatever. The employees and clientele of Ben’s Delicatessen fear we may be losing yet another element of what made Montreal a unique city.
Given that Ben’s Delicatessen is more than a restaurant; that it is a place of great historic and tourism value in Montreal ;
We, the undersigned, ask the owners of Ben’s Delicatessen to negotiate in good faith with their employees in order to reopen the restaurant as soon as possible.
Strikers from Ben’s Delicatessen in Montreal held a demonstration December 5, complete with free, smoked meat sandwiches. 22 waiters, bus boys, and short-order cooks at Ben’s have been without a contract since February 2006 and on strike since July 20, shutting down the deli for more than five months.
They are demanding that Ben’s bargain fairly with their union, Syndicat des Travailleuses et Travailleurs de la Charcuterie Ben’s (CSN).
CSN is seeking a $.40 Cdn/per hour pay increase, retiree benefits, and severance pay. Strikers are also demanding air-conditioning and heating system repairs, as well as other workplace improvements. Ben’s management has refused to bargain with the union.
Ben’s has been open for 98 years. This is the first strike ever at Montreal’s landmark eatery, where many claim smoked meat was invented.
Said CSN Ben’s President Charles Mendoza, “Ben’s has great heritage and tourism value for Montreal. It seems to me, however, that we’re losing yet another element of what made Montreal a unique city.”
Waiter Robert Mayrand, who has worked at Ben’s for 52 years, told SooToday.com, “I knew the founders of this restaurant, and if they were alive today they would be very sad to know that their life’s work is threatened.”
Demand that Ben’s come back to the bargaining table and give its waiters, bus boys and short-order cooks a good contract complete with severance pay and a raise. Ben’s also must improve the working conditions within its building. Sign the online petition at Ben's On Strike. http://bensonstrike.zoomshare.com/:tools
Employees of Ben's Delicatessen in Montreal are back on strike even though the owners announced last month they would close the restaurant.
The employees received a press release on Dec. 15 about the restaurant's closing and the donation of its equipment to a Montreal museum, union president Charles Mendoza said.
But the employees have not been officially informed by the owner, Mr. Mendoza. The press release was delivered to employees by a family friend of the owner, he said.
"They did not send us any official letter stating that it was closing," Mr. Mendoza said. "The owner is not speaking to us and he's not even communicating to the union," Mr. Mendoza said.
The release was sent out on Dec. 15 by family friend Bernard Voyer who said Wednesday the employees were informed of the restaurant's closure.
"The union had been informed verbally of the closure. The paperwork regarding the severance papers for the employees were sent to them as well," Mr. Mendoza said.
Struggling with the union and still delivering affordable meals proved to be costly and the restaurant wasn't making any money, Mr. Voyer said.
"After meeting the demands of their employees in three successive collective agreements, the owners came to the conclusion that a single-outlet deli cannot thrive in the economic environment of a unionized payroll," the press release stated.
The 22 members of the Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de la charcuterie Bens (CSN) have been on strike since July 20. They want better working conditions, including more staff and enough utensils and dishes for the restaurant, Mr. Mendoza said.
Since the press release was sent to employees, Ben's has not been sold and its equipment remains in the restaurant, Mr. Mendoza said.
Mr. Mendoza said they are not giving up and will remain on the picket line to save the local landmark, he said.
"We want that restaurant to be open because it is a landmark. The people of Montreal need this restaurant," Mr. Mendoza said. "We aren't asking for big demands all we are asking for is better work conditions."
Montreal deli closes after 98 years
By JANICE ARNOLD Staff Reporter Canadian Jewish News
MONTREAL - The announcement last month that Bens delicatessen was closing after more than 98 years brought to Eiran Harris’ mind not fond memories of family Sunday lunches,but of sitting in on his father’s clandestine dealings with potential arms suppliers.
Harris’ father, David, was an arms procurer for the nascent state of Israel. Through 1946 and 1947, and much of 1948, Harris would meet his prospective clients at Bens, unbeknownst to its owners. This was the old Bens, kitty-corner to its last location, at de Maisonneuve Boulevard and Metcalfe Street, and a much smaller place. Harris, who was a lad of 13 or 14 at the time, remembers there were maybe five tables, plus seats at the counter.
The elder Harris chose Bens not for the food, his son insists, but because “the noise was deafening. If you spoke in a normal voice, you could not be heard beyond your table.”
But another reason was the large menu board over the counter.
The elder Harris and his “clients” used the items listed as code names for the goods they were haggling over. So a smoked meat sandwich, with fries and a pickle could have meant, say, an airplane engine, mortars and a radar set – at least, on a good day.
“Through this code that they concocted they were able to discuss what they had been able to find or had to offer,” said Eiran Harris, an archivist at the Jewish Public Library. “There was a lot of bargaining. The Jewish nation was dirt-poor, so every cent that could be saved on a bullet was important.”
Harris’ suppliers included both Jews and non-Jews, his son said. “The good, scarce stuff – mostly surplus from World War II – came from non-Jews through the underground. The Jewish suppliers were mostly scrap-metal dealers or second-hand dealers, who happened to come across something. That it could be turned into a useable armament was not their concern.”
The elder Harris was a wheeler-dealer from way back.
A Winnipeg native, he had emigrated to Palestine in the mid-1920s and became a member of the paramilitary Haganah. He was useful for missions abroad because of his knowledge of several languages, not only English, Hebrew and Yiddish, but also German and some French and Arabic.
“He quickly rose in the arms procurement field, and by 1946 was considered an expert,” his son said. Harris, who died in 1967, also had success in trading with the Soviet Union ambulances for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.
After the corn exchange failed in Manitoba, David Harris went to Chicago to deal in the larger commodities market, but it also soon collapsed, foreshadowing the stock market crash of 1929.
“He went broke betting on pork bellies and soybeans, so he decided to try his luck in the land of Israel,” his son said.
“How did my penniless father make it to Palestine? Well, he called the FBI and told them there was an alien holed up in a certain rooming house. Then he went to that rooming house and waited for the agents to arrive.
“When they found him and asked for his papers, he blabbered in a mixture of Hebrew, Yiddish and broken English that, yes, it was true he had no visa or whatever, and they promptly deported him – at the U.S. government’s expense.”
Incidentally, Harris, who has been researching the history of smoked meat in Montreal, points out that Bens never had an apostrophe in its name. The lack of punctuation had nothing to do with Quebec’s language law and perhaps everything to do with the Kravitz family’s foresight – the family, which owned the deli, never had to change the huge sign that has heralded the location they moved to in 1950, some 27 years before Bill 101 was passed in in 1977, mandating the predominance of French on commercial signs.
Obituary: Ben’s Restaurant, Montreal, 1908-2006
December 18th, 2006
Ben’s Restaurant is dead. After 98 years of business, capped by a months-long employees strike, the owners now say they will not reopen.
My first visit to Ben’s Restaurant was twenty one years ago. In the summer of 1986, my then girlfriend and I borrowed my Dad’s car for a rambling road trip from our home in Nova Scotia. The journey included a couple of days in Montreal, and on our second day in town we spotted Ben’s Restaurant on Boul. de Maisonneuve. It was hard to miss, with that enormous RESTAURANT DELI sign wrapping around the corner, and BENS written vertically over the door.
We were students, and on a very tight budget. To us, notable restaurants were things to look at, not places in which to eat. But a quick check of the menu proved it wouldn’t break us. As we gazed in through the enormous windows, and perused the various photos of old-time celebrities who had eaten there, I was captivated. There was something very American about the place, specifically, something very New Yorkish. Never having been to the U.S., let alone New York, I was hooked.
We went in. We were seated in the window at a creaky Formica and chrome table. A moment later, the waiter appeared, a tall, freckled man, probably in his late thirties. He was dressed in black pants and a white shirt with a little bow tie, and he wore his gingery hair in a comb-over.
There was something about him that made an immediate and indelible impression on me. He was one of those people you sometimes meet who pique your curiosity for no particular reason that you can put a finger on. Although if I were to think about it, it would start with his job. Where I grew up – a town utterly devoid of interesting restaurants – waitering jobs were for young people who had no other options, or for their fiftyish mothers. You never saw a grown man, someone who could be someone’s Dad, waiting tables.
Adding to the mystery was his somewhat brusk manner. Not rude, just slightly distracted and impatient, as if he were really the restaurant’s accountant and was just filling in while the real waiter stepped out for a moment. He asked for our orders and wrote it down on a pad, concentrating on the task of getting the information while ignoring the waiter’s duty of welcoming us as guests and making us comfortable.
I found it exotic. I never liked being called “honey” and “dear” by somebody’s mother while I ordered my dinner. This waiter at Ben’s was a completely different animal. A fascinating creature, I wanted to know more about him. Who was he? How did he come to be a waiter at Ben’s? Could he sustain himself and a family on a waiter’s earnings? Is he stuck with this job or is it his chosen work?
We ordered smoked meat sandwiches and fries. They arrived a few minutes later on Melmac plates. Melmac! I hadn’t seen Melmac since the 1960s! I looked around at the chipped Formica tables and the slightly rusty chrome, at the fading old photographs on the wall and the Dad-aged man-waiters, and decided that we had really stumbled onto something. This place was authentic. It wasn’t just recreating 1950s kitsch – it had never gotten over 1950s kitsch!
The smoked meat sandwich – my first ever – was delightful. I had never seen such a thing – a ball of steamed brisket thinly sliced and placed between two very small pieces of rye bread. It was piled high and difficult to eat without spilling meat all over. I decided to use a fork to eat some of the meat, breadless, until the sandwich was of a reasonable proportion – a technique I use with smoked meat sandwiches to this day.
But I couldn’t help but think that the sandwich would have been better if the bread were of a larger diameter. Why serve it as a ball – as tall as it was wide – when you could use a slightly larger loaf and serve it like a proper sandwich? I was also unimpressed with the fries, which were of the standard frozen variety like you’d find at any diner. Worse, I felt gypped, as there were only about eight fries piled into the tiny Melmac bowl.
Overall, however, it was a memorable experience, made better by the presence of old Irving Kravitz sitting by the cashier, lording over his domain. The son of the original Ben Kravitz, Irving was a friendly old geezer, at least 80, who I later learned spent most of his time just sitting there greeting people as they entered and left.
Two years later, I moved to Montreal, and have lived here ever since. In those first few years, I was terribly broke. Yet I managed to make it to Ben’s Restaurant a couple of times a year. Old Kravitz was always in his chair by the cashier, and the tall gingery waiter was busy waiting on tables. One afternoon as a friend and I were leaving, a burly man pushed past me on his way in. I looked back and saw Jacques Parizeau beaming with delight as he pumped old Kravitz’s hand in greeting.
other restaurants grew, the bloom on the rose of my first impression of Ben’s gradually faded. Then, old Kravitz died in 1992.
By the mid-90s I had stopped going to Ben’s altogether, although I would occasionally walk by and look in through the window. Most times, I’d see the gingery waiter. The tables and chairs were visibly aging. The photographs continued to fade. The Melmac remained.
A couple of years ago, I made one last visit to Ben’s. I was feeling out of sorts, bored with the usual downtown lunch options, and wanted to do something different. I thought I’d visit Ben’s to see if anything had changed.
Nothing had. That’s when I realized that there can be too much worry about remaining “authentic.” By not changing anything in the restaurant, the owners – by now a collection of disinterested heirs – changed the one thing that made Ben’s great; its vitality. As the restaurant ran into the ground, it lost the verve that gave Ben’s its importance.
Where Ben’s was once a brightly-lit beacon, a buzzing hive of activity at the core of the downtown Montreal experience, all that remained were the fading physical elements and the old Melmac plates with too few fries. Ben’s suffered the same fate as the fabled Warshaw’s – the owners didn’t realize that stasis leads to atrophy, that the “authentic experience” of the place was rooted in its vitality and its importance to the people it served.
The waiters at Ben’s have been on strike since July. By September, I knew that it was curtains for Ben’s, that the place would never reopen. The grievances of the striking waiters are a sign of the extent to which the owners have distanced themselves from caring about it. Yet they present an illusion of caring by reportedly turning down a $10 million offer for the property from the developers of a skyscraper planned for the adjoining lots.
I passed Ben’s Restaurant while out for a walk one afternoon last October. It had never looked so bad, the door padlocked due to the strike and its windows encrusted with grievance stickers. I could see that the old Formica and chrome tables and chairs had been removed, as well as the old photographs. A handful of striking waiters stood around on the sidewalk, absent-mindedly holding their en grève signs. One of them was the tall waiter, now more grey than ginger. He stood there in the cold afternoon light, looking, as usual, like he should have been doing something else.
I still had the urge to know about him and his life. In the twenty one years since he placed that first smoked meat sandwich on the table before me, my own life had tumbled over many twists and turns. Like most of us, I’ve celebrated highs and suffered lows. Overall, things have gone much better than I would have imagined. But what about him? What adventures has he known in that time? Have the past two decades lived up to his hopes? Now in his late fifties, on strike in front of a restaurant that will never reopen, does he have a backup plan? Does he know what he will do next?
I turned and walked back to my office. At the corner, I glanced up at the artist’s rendition of the L-shaped skyscraper that will wrap around the shell of Ben’s Restaurant – designed so because the owners had refused to sell. I wondered if the developer has a second set of architectural plans, unknown to the public, that incorporates the space where Ben’s sits, in anticipation of a takeover. I wondered if the refusal of $10 million was just playing hardball, or if the owners were waiting for the strike to squeeze the last breath out of Ben’s so they can say it was the employees who killed the family legacy, not them.
The developers have not yet turned a sod for the new building. Anything can happen, especially now that the strike can be blamed for the demise of the restaurant. But the ball is in the developer’s court. Do we hear $9 million?
Posted in Moi, Food and Drink, Montreal, Culture | 18 Comments »
A legendary sandwich shop is toast
After 98 years as a fixture in Montreal, Ben's is closing. Time has not been kind to the smoked-meat hot spot, INGRID PERITZ writes
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
MONTREAL -- Ben's delicatessen, the fluorescent-lit Montreal landmark where poets, prime ministers, Hollywood stars and feathered chorus girls went to eat, has served up its last smoked meat.
The downtown restaurant, which lived its heyday in the 1950s and seemed frozen in time ever since, is closing after 98 years in business in the city that gave Canada the smoked meat sandwich.
The closing ends a nasty labour dispute and lowers the curtain on a bygone era in Montreal. Long-faced waiters, many of them employees for decades, met reporters yesterday to mourn their jobs and the passing of a city fixture.
"This hurts," said Robert Mayrand, a waiter who began serving 15-cent smoked meat sandwiches 52 years ago. "I feel like I'm losing my family."
Standing at a prominent street corner beneath a garish red-and-white sign, proud of its unfashionable Formica and stainless-steel decor, Ben's saw a parade of celebrities and eccentrics walk though its doors.
Mr. Mayrand, who started working at age 20, recalls serving Ed Sullivan, sending smoked meat and potato latkes to Liberace's dressing room, and watching Jack Benny blow cigar smoke through the vast dining room.
Ben's hit its stride through the 1940s and 50s when Montreal was the Sin City of Canada.
Showgirls in ostrich feathers poured in after cabaret closing hours along with musicians, magicians and the odd ventriloquist. The air was thick with cologne and cigarette smoke.
"After the clubs closed, the show continued," Mr. Mayrand said. The restaurant stayed open into the wee hours, closing only long enough to mop the floor "and wait for the milkman to arrive."
Waiters can still recite their regulars' orders.
Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau had his smoked meat with a fruit salad. Hockey legend Gordie Howe always ate his with a glass of milk.
The famous "poet's corner" attracted luminaries such as Leonard Cohen and Jack Layton. Politicians such as René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau and Jean Charest stopped by regularly.
But time hasn't been kind to Ben's.
The restaurant has been in decline for decades, long ago ceding its place for smoked-meat supremacy, and international renown, to Schwartz's.
Ben's was started on Montreal's St. Laurent Boulevard in 1908 by Ben Kravitz, who came to Montreal in 1899 and decided to try the recipe for meat preservation he remembered from his home in Lithuania.
It moved downtown in 1929, then into its current location in 1950, and has remained stubbornly unchanged while the city grew modern around it.
Surrounded by glass-and-steel skyscrapers, the building has been coveted by real-estate developers for decades.
A strike in July by the restaurant's employees, who were seeking a 5-per-cent increase on their average $8-an-hour salaries and basic improvements such as the introduction of toasters, appears to have given the family the green light to close.
The deli has remained in the Kravitz family. A spokesman for the family yesterday cited "the economics of a unionized payroll" as a cause for the closing.
The family also says some of Ben's artifacts, including its collection of faded black-and-white celebrity photographs from its Wall of Fame, will go to an undisclosed museum.
Many in Montreal are sad to see the restaurant close -- they hoped at least it would survive to a century -- but they're even sadder at its slide in recent years.
"In its day, Ben's was very lively. Everyone was in there table hopping, exchanging gossip," recalls author William Weintraub, who chronicled Montreal's fabled days in the 1940s and 50s. "It was part of Montreal in its glory days of entertainment."
"It's a landmark," he said. "But it's past its prime, and should be pickled."
Jean Charest invitait de temps en temps ses collègues à discuter autour d'un smoked meat de chez Ben's. Lucien Bouchard y allait parfois, Jacques Parizeau aussi. Avant eux, Pierre Elliott Trudeau et René Lévesque y avaient leurs aises. Gurmukh Masand, employé depuis 21 ans, les a tous vus défiler, entre deux vedettes hollywoodiennes en tournage à Montréal. Terminé, ce ballet de célébrités: le restaurant Ben's ferme ses portes à deux ans de son centenaire.
La nouvelle a été confirmée hier par la famille Kravitz, qui se dit minée par une grève qui durait depuis cinq mois. Il y avait désormais, peut-on lire dans le communiqué, «incompatibilité entre les conventions ou l'addition». Autrement dit, l'économie du smoked meat syndiqué, servi par surcroît en plein centre-ville de Montréal, ne tenait plus.
À défaut d'être encore une bonne adresse (voir plus bas les doléances des clients) Ben's était un pèlerinage touristique obligé et une expérience folklorique (de plus en plus) occasionnelle pour les Montréalais.
Débarqués de la Latvie (aujourd'hui la Lettonie) en 1908 avec «à peine son linge sur le dos», comme le dit le communiqué, Ben Kravitz et son épouse, Fanny, ont ouvert le restaurant, boulevard de Maisonneuve, dans l'intention d'y faire connaître les spécialités latviennes: le boeuf mariné et fumé, les cornichons dans le vinaigre et le chou fermenté.
Après Ben, il y a eu son fils, Irving, puis sa veuve, Jean, aujourd'hui âgée de 83 ans, qui a pris la relève avec son fils Elliott. «Les Kravitz, ce sont des restaurateurs de génération en génération. Elliott a beau être gériatre et enseigner la médecine à McGill, son identité, c'est celle d'un restaurateur. La famille a le coeur brisé de fermer le restaurant. C'est un deuil pour eux», a dit hier le porte-parole et ami de la famille, Bernard Voyer.
En conférence de presse hier après-midi, les employés du mythique Ben's refusaient d'y croire, convaincus que la famille bluffait. «Aucune date de fermeture n'est précisée, alors nous, lundi, on recommence notre piquetage», a lancé le président du syndicat, le serveur Charles Mendoza.
Serveurs, cuisiniers, «maître d'hôtel» présentaient pour la plupart d'incomparables états de service. Cela faisait 15 ans, 20 ans, voire 50 ans qu'ils étaient là, à l'emploi des Kravitz. Mais là, ce n'était plus possible.
Serge Pellerin, serveur depuis 26 ans, dit que les employés ne demandaient pas la lune. Quarante cents de l'heure de plus, quand on est au salaire minimum, ça ne pouvait tout de même pas faire crouler le roi du smoked meat. «Le restaurant était si mal chauffé l'hiver qu'il fallait s'habiller en pelures d'oignon en-dessous de nos chemises blanches. L'été, l'air climatisé ne fonctionnait pas. On demandait des ustensiles et des verres pour servir notre clientèle, et ça ne venait pas. On n'avait même plus de grille-pain!»
L'ami de la famille nie. S'ils avaient été si maltraités, les employés de Ben's seraient-ils restés aussi longtemps? demande M. Voyer. «Avant ces histoires de convention collective, les employés qui avaient un bébé allaient voir l'ancien patron, Irving, et Irving leur disait: "Félicitations, voilà ton augmentation". Mais là, tout n'était plus que clauses normatives.»
La suite des choses
Tout à côté de Ben's, la société immobilière texane Hines s'apprête à construire une tour de bureaux de 28 étages. Les Kravitz ont eu il y a quelques mois une rencontre avec les gens de cette entreprise par l'entremise d'un conseiller municipal, dit Bernard Voyer, «mais Hines ne s'est pas montré intéressé à acheter l'immeuble et le terrain de chez Ben's».
Au fil des ans, les offres d'achat n'ont pas manqué et bien sûr, la famille tendra maintenant l'oreille plus que jamais, dit M. Voyer.
Depuis longtemps, Ben's n'était plus que l'ombre de lui-même, de l'avis général. Au centre-ville, hier, les passants n'avaient que de mauvais mots à son égard. «T'avais un petit sandwich de rien du tout, trois ou quatre frites figées, et ça venait de te coûter 15 $», résumait Caroline Guay.
Mêmes mauvais commentaires de Stéphane David, un analyste financier. «Vive le folklore, mais quand t'as un rapport qualité/prix aussi mauvais...»
«Quand je me suis installé à Montréal, raconte un banquier d'origine autrichienne rencontré boulevard de Maisonneuve, je me suis précipité pour aller manger là. C'était nettement surévalué! En tout cas, ça me fait bien de la peine pour les employés.»
Le président du syndicat, Charles Mendoza, lui, ne regrette rien, et surtout pas sa bataille pour des conditions de travail décentes. Et il aura toujours une petite pensée pour son regretté patron, Irvin, «un saint homme qui, lui, dans le temps, nous considérait tous comme faisant partie de sa famille».
Fermeture de Ben's
La fin d'une légende
Jean-François Codère Le Journal de Montréal 16/12/2006 07h32
Le mythique restaurant Ben's, l'une des adresses montréalaises les plus connues en Amérique du Nord, ferme ses portes. Le conflit de travail qui sévissait depuis juillet dernier aura eu raison de ce monument âgé de 98 ans.
La nouvelle est tombée hier matin. Par voie de communiqué, la famille Kravitz, propriétaire de l'établissement, a fait savoir qu'elle n'accéderait pas aux demandes de ses employés en grève et qu'elle préférait mettre la clé sous la porte.
«Les propriétaires en sont venus à la conclusion qu'un comptoir-lunch indépendant ne peut être rentable dans l'environnement économique d'un personnel syndiqué», a écrit la direction.
«Ce fut une décision difficile pour eux», a fait savoir le porte-parole de la famille, Bernard Voyer. Il a rapidement mis fin aux spéculations entourant une possible stratégie visant à forcer la main des employés.
«Je les connais depuis assez longtemps, ce ne sont pas des gens qui bluffent.» Selon M.Voyer, «les clients s'attendent à avoir une facture de moins de 10 $», ce qui était devenu presque impossible.
Pour leur part, les employés syndiqués ont blâmé la propriétaire-dirigeante, Jean Kravitz, 83 ans, l'accusant d'avoir complètement négligé l'entretien du restaurant. «Tout ce qu'on demandait, c'est des ustensiles, des verres et des grille-pain pour mieux servir nos clients», a lancé le trésorier du syndicat des employés de Ben's, Serge Pellerin, serveur depuis 26 ans.
Les employés, qui travaillaient presque tous au salaire minimum, demandaient aussi une augmentation salariale de 0,40 $ l'heure, l'air climatisé en été et plus de chauffage en hiver. Jamais leurs demandes n'ont été considérées, selon le négociateur de la CSN, Patrick Brunet.
«On parle d'un employeur qui ne veut pas payer pour de la coutellerie, des outils, l'air climatisé ou le chauffage, qui dilue le ketchup et la moutarde avec de l'eau et qui ferme la valve du savon du lave-vaisselle pour économiser en ne lavant qu'à l'eau, comment voulez-vous négocier ?», demandait M. Brunet.
La fermeture du restaurant ouvre toute grande la porte à la Société immobilière Trans-Québec (SITQ), filiale de la Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. Celle-ci s'apprête à construire une tour à bureaux de 28 étages tout juste derrière le restaurant, là où se trouve actuellement un terrain de stationnement.
Le partenaire de la SITQ, Hines, avait déjà eu des discussions avec la famille Kravitz pour l'achat du restaurant, sans succès. Ni la SITQ, ni M. Voyer n'ont écarté une reprise des discussions hier.
Les propriétaires ont conclu une entente avec un musée pour préserver les souvenirs ornant les murs du restaurant.
Montréal perd une institution
Les employé-es de la charcuterie Ben’s sont en deuil
Les grévistes de la charcuterie Ben’s de Montréal sont attristés, mais pas surpris par l’annonce faite aujourd’hui par les propriétaires concernant la fermeture du célèbre restaurant.
« Au fil des ans, il est devenu évident, pour nous, que les héritiers de Ben’s n’avaient pas l’intention de poursuivre bien longtemps les activités de l’entreprise, a dit Charles Mendoza, président du Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de la charcuterie Ben’s (CSN). Ça prend vraiment de la détermination pour gaspiller les atouts que possédaient Ben’s : une histoire de 98 ans, une clientèle fidèle provenant d’un peu partout dans le monde et des employé-es dévoués. »
Dans une dernière tentative pour forcer les propriétaires à faire des investissements minimes afin d’assurer la survie du restaurant, les employés ont déclenché la grève le 20 juillet. Ils ont appris la fermeture par voie de communiqué de presse ce matin.
Selon un communiqué de presse des propriétaires, le restaurant « ne peut être rentable dans l’environnement économique d’un personnel syndiqué. »
« Syndiqué ou pas, a observé M. Mendoza, la plupart des travailleurs gagnaient le salaire minimum. Les revendications pécuniaires étaient de l’ordre de 40 cents l’heure. Les propriétaires ont également fait fi des conventions collectives précédentes », a-t-il ajouté.
Le syndicat entend déployer tous les moyens pour s’assurer que cet employeur respectera ses obligations légales à l’égard de tous les salarié-es. Il exercera une vigilance de tous les instants au regard des dispositions du Code du travail, notamment celles se rapportant à une reprise éventuelle des activités.
« La vraie tragédie, c’est que la ville de Montréal perd plus qu’un simple restaurant, a déclaré Charles Mendoza. Ben’s est une institution qui a contribué au caractère culturel unique de Montréal. C’est honteux que les propriétaires actuels ne ressentent aucune responsabilité à l’égard de la ville, de la clientèle ou des travailleurs qui les ont enrichis. »
L’annonce de la fermeture survient 10 jours seulement après le lancement par les employés du restaurant d’une campagne publique pour la sauvegarde de Ben’s.
Sources : CSN - 15 décembre 2006
Pour renseignements : Lyle Stewart, Service de communications CSN, au 514 796-2066.
Ben's is closing its doors. After 98 years, the Kravitz family, owners of Ben's De Luxe Delicatessen, has decided it is no longer profitable to keep the downtown restaurant running. The restaurant has been in involved in an ongoing labour dispute with its workers who have been on strike since July 20. The McCordMuseum said it's considering acquiring photos and other objects that line the walls at Ben's. They include photographs of tourists and famous celebrities such as Jean Beliveau, Ed Sullivan and Bette Midler. McCord's acquisition committee is expected to make a final decision in March.
MONTREAL -- A landmark deli where Pierre Trudeau and Leonard Cohen chowed down as eagerly as any other smoked-meat seeking diner closed Friday after a lengthy strike. Ben's De Luxe Delicatessen and Restaurant has been a fixture on the city's fabled smoked-meat circuit since it opened in 1908, known for its heaping plates of fatty beef served between two slices of rye. Former prime ministers Trudeau and Paul Martin, entertainment czar Ed Sullivan and singer-cum-ladies man Cohen were among Ben's patrons. But then so was anybody looking for something to eat after a night on the town. "Through those doors passed the entire 20th century history of Montreal," the Kravitz family, which owns Ben's, said in a news release Friday. "The Kravitz's recognize this and are grateful for the unique experience." The family says they reached a deal with a Montreal museum to preserve the souvenirs and pictures which decorated the restaurant over its 98-year history. Ben's unionized employees went on strike in July, demanding a 40-cent raise over their average salary of $8 an hour. They also complained about working conditions, including a shortage of plates and cutlery. The Kravitz family said they could not operate a profitable business in the current economic climate with unionized staff. Originally founded by Ben and Fanny Kravitz, the restaurant was passed to their son, Irving, who died a few years ago. Irving's widow, Jane Kravitz now owns the shop with her son. The union says the new owners never had the intention of restoring the landmark to its former glory. "For many years it has been evident to us that the current owners of Ben's had no intention of running a successful enterprise," said Charles Mendoza, a spokesman for the employees. "At the same time, it takes real determination to waste the advantages that Ben's employed." But those advantages became fewer and fewer over the years. The celebrities stopped coming, real-estate prices in the neighbourhood went up and the party scene moved elsewhere. In recent years, few other than die-hard regulars and nostalgic ex-pats ventured into the 1950s-style diner. The barstools, dingy linoleum floor and yellowed walls can still be seen through the union posters now pasted to Ben's windows. A steady trickle of Montrealers stopped by the restaurant Friday, cupping hands around eyes to get their last look at the famous smoked-meat joint. "It feels like a real kick in the guts for the people who have been here for many years," said Fred, a long-time Ben's regular who declined to give his family name. "I feel bad for the people who are going to miss the tradition of Ben's, the old-fashioned ambience." But as some grew sentimental at the thought of losing a landmark, others say Ben's time had come. "I don't think anybody is going to miss it if they close," said Arjun Massand, whose brother had been a maitre' d at the deli for 21 years. "Those brothers that owned the restaurant. . . they took good care of (it). But after that, their sons were not that keen."
Last Updated: Friday, December 15, 2006 | 8:59 PM ET
Bens Restaurant, a Montreal deli favoured by luminaries from Liberace to Leonard Cohen, is closing permanently after a drawn-out labour dispute.The Kravitz family, which has owned the restaurant since its inception 98 years ago, announced Friday they've struck a deal with a local museum that has agreed to preserve the collection of tchotchkes and autographed pictures that decorated the yellow and chrome deli.Bens Restaurant was founded by Ben Kravitz when he immigrated to Montreal from Latvia, a century ago. (Radio-Canada)The restaurant has been closed since workers went on strike July 20. Some employees, who boasted more than 50 years of service at the deli, complained Bens was increasingly neglected and growing dilapidated. They demanded higher wages and better working conditions, but negotiations between the employees' union and Bens' owners fell flat.A family spokesman said it had become too difficult for Bens to turn a profit since its employees joined the CSN union federation in 1995."You know, you couldn't have your smoked meat sandwich and your coleslaw and your fries and your cherry Coke [for] under $10 in the present context," Bernard Voyer told CBC.The owner and manager of Bens, 83-year old Jean Kravitz, told Canadian Press that she harbours no bitterness toward her former employees and said their decades of service speaks to the way they were treated at the restaurant.On Friday, the deli's loyal customers were disappointed to learn they could no longer savour Bens' trademark smoked meat, fries and coleslaw plate."I always enjoyed it. It has a lot of history to it. We brought our relatives from the U.S. [to the deli] when they came here," said Andy Larivière.A steady stream of celebrities frequented Bens, including former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, singer and actor Bette Midler and the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.A 28-floor office tower worth $150 million is planned for the area, but Bens' owners declined earlier this fall to sell the deli on the corner of Metcalfe and Maisonneuve streets in downtown Montreal.The restaurant was founded by Ben Kravitz when he immigrated to Montreal from Latvia, a century ago.
Montreal landmark closes doors after workers demand 40cents an hour raise, more plates, cutlery
By JONATHAN MONTPETIT, CP
Meat cutter Russell Murray pickets in front of Ben’s Delicatessen in Montreal last week. The landmark kosher deli closed yesterday after a lengthy strike. Regulars ate their last plate of Ben’s smoked meat on rye in July when its workers walked out. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)
MONTREAL -- A landmark deli where Pierre Trudeau and Leonard Cohen chowed down as eagerly as any other smoked-meat seeking diner closed yesterday after a lengthy strike.
Ben's De Luxe Delicatessen and Restaurant has been a fixture on the city's fabled smoked-meat circuit since it opened in 1908, known for its heaping plates of fatty beef served between two slices of rye.
Former prime ministers Trudeau and Paul Martin, entertainment czar Ed Sullivan and singer-cum-ladies man Cohen were among Ben's patrons. But then so was anybody looking for something to eat after a night on the town.
"Through those doors passed the entire 20th century history of Montreal," the Kravitz family, which owns Ben's, said in a news release Friday. "The Kravitzes recognize this and are grateful for the unique experience."
The family says they reached a deal with a Montreal museum to preserve the souvenirs and pictures which decorated the restaurant over its 98-year history.
Ben's unionized employees went on strike in July, demanding a 40cents raise over their average salary of $8 an hour. They also complained about working conditions, including a shortage of plates and cutlery.
The Kravitz family said they could not operate a profitable business in the current economic climate with unionized staff.
Originally founded by Ben and Fanny Kravitz, the restaurant was passed to their son, Irving, who died a few years ago. Irving's widow, Jane Kravitz now owns the shop with her son.
The union says the new owners never had the intention of restoring the landmark to its former glory.
"For many years it has been evident to us that the current owners of Ben's had no intention of running a successful enterprise," said Charles Mendoza, a spokesman for the employees. "At the same time, it takes real determination to waste the advantages that Ben's employed."
But those advantages became fewer and fewer over the years. The celebrities stopped coming, real-estate prices in the neighbourhood went up and the party scene moved elsewhere.
In recent years, few other than die-hard regulars and nostalgic ex-pats ventured into the 1950s-style diner.
The barstools, dingy linoleum floor and yellowed walls can still be seen through the union posters now pasted to Ben's windows.
A steady trickle of Montrealers stopped by the restaurant yesterday, cupping hands around eyes to get their last look at the famous smoked-meat joint.
'A REAL KICK IN THE GUTS'
"It feels like a real kick in the guts for the people who have been here for many years," said Fred, a long-time Ben's regular who declined to give his family name. "I feel bad for the people who are going to miss the tradition of Ben's, the old-fashioned ambience."
But as some grew sentimental at the thought of losing a landmark, others say Ben's time had come.
"I don't think anybody is going to miss it if they close," said Arjun Massand, whose brother had been a maitre' d at the deli for 21 years. "Those brothers that owned the restaurant... they took good care of (it). But after that, their sons were not that keen."
Workers disgruntled. But famous smoked meat still available for purchase
LAN HUSTAK and Mike KING, The Gazette
Published: Saturdayecember 16, 2006
Ben's hasn't been Ben's for a while, but it's still hard to get used to the idea that the downtown delicatessen is gone for good.
Owner Jean Kravitz, 83, announced yesterday she was closing the restaurant, a Montreal institution for 98 years, because "we have come to the conclusion a single-outlet deli cannot thrive in the economic environment of a unionized payroll."
The restaurant's 22 unionized employees went on strike July 20.
Customers will still be able to order Ben's smoked meat, however.
Ben's products, produced under licence offsite, will be available through retail outlets, said Bernard Voyer, a grandson of founder Ben Kravitz.
"The sit-down restaurant is closing, not the Ben's name," Voyer said.
The waiters, busboys and short-order cooks who walked off the job to support demands for improved working conditions say the announcement doesn't make any sense.
"The closing, for us, doesn't exist," Serge Pellerin, treasurer of the union local, told a news conference yesterday.
"They haven't given us a precise date. Until we get an official notification, we will be back on the picket line," added Pellerin, who has waited on tables at Ben's for 26 years.
"We want our jobs back. We want our restaurant back. We want Ben's back.
"We didn't lack for customers. We served celebrities, we served tourists, we served everyone. People wouldn't have kept coming back if the service or the food wasn't any good."
Charles Mendoza, president of the union local, which is affiliated with the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, said the announced closing is nothing more than a ploy to break the union.
"We worked for the minimum wage before there was a union, and after," Mendoza said. "This isn't about wages. All we are asking for was a 40-cent-an-hour increase." Employees were earning $8 an hour, on average.
"Management never showed any responsibility to the employees or to customers," Mendoza added. "We went on strike because we had no other choice. We really wanted better working conditions.
"There was never money to fix the restaurant, to install air conditioning in summer or heat the place in winter. They didn't maintain the place. Equipment would break down, and they wouldn't repair it. They never wanted us to be unionized. They are out to break the union, not to close the restaurant."
Ben's has been a Montreal landmark since Ben Kravitz opened his first delicatessen on St. Laurent Blvd. in 1908.
It has been at its present location, at Metcalfe St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd., since 1950. After Jean's husband, Irving Kravitz, died in 1992, the staff declined to 25 from 75. Though the restaurant remained a popular tourist attraction, many former customers say it was coasting on its reputation.
Ben's is in one of the last three-storey buildings on de Maisonneuve amid an ever encroaching canyon of skyscrapers. Construction of a 28-storey, $150-million office tower that would wrap around the building that houses Ben's was announced in October. Since then, there has been speculation the project would be redesigned to include the space now occupied by Ben's.
Les employés du restaurant Ben's, ouvert à Montréal en 1908, sont en grève depuis le 20 juillet 2006. The famous Ben's Delicatessen opened in Montreal in 1908. It is now closed since 20 July 2006, due to a strike.
Certains de ces employés travaillent chez Ben's depuis plus de 50 ans. Some of Ben's employees worked there for the last fifty years.
Posted in Lifestyle | December 15th, 2006 No Comments »
On apprenait aujourd’hui que le BENS DELI ferme officiellement ses portes. Après un grève de près de 5 mois, le patron a finalement officiellement mis la clé dans la porte. Un temps des fêtes morne attend les employés du BENS, et s’agit d’un coup dur pour les Montralais.
Malgré ses bonnes intentions, même l’intervention de BLC n’aura pu sauver l’institution montréalaise presque centenaire.
Petition and poster campaign - Ben's Deli employees work to save 98-year-old Montreal landmark
MONTREAL, Dec. 5 /CNW Telbec/ - The striking employees of historic Ben's
Delicatessen were joined on the picket line for a smoked meat sandwich today
by well-wishers and supporters anxious to see the Montreal landmark survive.
The Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de la charcuterie Ben's
(CSN) used the occasion to make a public appeal for support by highlighting
the history of the city's oldest delicatessen - the likely birthplace of
smoked meat. The union's members are collecting petition signatures to urge
the restaurant's owners to come to the bargaining table to negotiate an end to
the strike, which began last July 20. An online petition can be signed at
For the president of the CSN, Claudette Carbonneau, the struggle of Ben's
employees to save their restaurant in the face of employer neglect is
laudable. "These CSN members are trying to save more than their jobs, they're
working to save something of value for our city," said Ms. Carbonneau. "They
will have the CSN's unconditional support for as long as it takes."
The president of the union representing Ben's employees, Charles Mendoza,
is categorical in this regard. "Ben's has great heritage and tourism value for
Montreal," he said. "It seems to me, however, that we're losing yet another
element of what made Montreal a unique city."
The union also launched an innovative poster campaign featuring a dozen
Ben's workers to emphasize the longevity of the deli's 22 employees. Most have
worked on the corner of Metcalfe and de Maisonneuve for more than 20 years.
"We are a big family," said Robert Mayrand, who, with 52 years of service
is the dean of Ben's wait staff. "Many of our customers also belong to our
clan. Likewise, Ben's is an important member of the Montreal family."
Added Mr. Mayrand: "I knew the founders of this restaurant, and if they
were alive today they would be very sad to know that their life's work is
For several years, those who inherited Ben's Deli have refused to make
minimal investments in the restaurant or its equipment. Neither have the
owners shown any interest in negotiating improvements with their employees.
Among the contract demands are adequate staffing and better working
conditions, including heating, air conditioning and sufficient utensils and
dishes for the restaurant.
For further information: Lyle Stewart, CSN communications service, (514)
Deli in a pickle; 'place to be' Ben's has seen better days
In the long, frequently contentious and occasionally violent history of labour relations, the strike at Ben's may be the first in which one of the strikers' key demands is a toaster. Registered 7-day subscribers of The Gazette newspaper or electronic edition will enjoy full access to all montrealgazette.com content.
Forget about buying a Ben's smoked meat sandwich for awhile.Employees at the famous downtown deli went on strike Thursday for the first time in the restaurant's 98 year history, complaining of management by neglect. They cite a lack of air conditioning and management's contempt for their collective agreement as reasons for their walkout.The restaurant's lawyer Danny Kaufer says at the moment there are no discussions between the parties. "We will decide over the weekend what our next step will be.” Kaufer said.
The strike at Ben's Delicatessen in downtown Montreal enters its seventh week today with each side in the labour dispute blaming the other for refusing to negotiate. Twenty-two unionized employees, including waiters, bus boys and short-order cooks, walked out on July 20, complaining about intolerable working conditions at the landmark eatery at Metcalfe St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Danny Kaufer, the lawyer representing the restaurant, said it has been impossible to meet with a conciliator because union negotiator Patrick Brunet had been away on vacation. "I think it's fair to say there won't be much happening until after Labour Day," Kaufer said. "I have no idea when we will sit down again. I'll wait for his call, and we'll then decide when we can get together, everybody." But Charles Mendoza, president of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux local that represents the deli's workers, said it was Kaufer who was on vacation. "We had a replacement who was ready to negotiate with management while Patrick was away on holiday," Mendoza said. "It's Kaufer and the conciliator who were away. We are ready to sit down with them." The workers earn $8 an hour, on average. They have been without a contract since February. Since the workers set up a picket line, they have been collecting $200 a week in strike pay. The union is seeking a 40-cent-an-hour pay increase as well as a compensation package for employees who retire or leave. In addition, they want the heating and air conditioning system repaired, as well as other improvements to working conditions in the building. Ben's has been a Montreal fixture since Ben Kravitz opened his first deli on St. Laurent Blvd. in 1908. It has been at its present location since 1950. In its heyday, Ben's was an after-dark mecca for entertainers, actors, athletes and politicians, many of whom left their celebrity photographs on its walls.Veteran waiter Robert Mayrand, who has worked at Ben's for 52 years, says he's been approached to write his memoirs. "If this strike lasts much longer, I might just have the time to do that."
firstname.lastname@example.org @ The Gazette (Montreal) 2006
Employees of Ben's Delicatessen, on strike since Thursday, are scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. today with restaurant owners in a conciliatory meeting. The owners' lawyer, a conciliator and a representative of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, the union to which Ben's employees belong, will also be present. The 22 striking workers are demanding better working conditions, a wage increase and improved benefits, including severance pay. The workers earn an average of $8 an hour. Open since 1908, Ben's has been at the corner of Metcalfe St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. since 1950.
Landmark eatery still shut by strike Walkout at Ben's enters seventh week ALAN HUSTAK, The Gazette
Published: Wednesday, August 30, 2006 The strike at Ben's Delicatessen in downtown Montreal enters its seventh week today with each side in the labour dispute blaming the other for refusing to negotiate. Twenty-two unionized employees, including waiters, bus boys and short-order cooks, walked out on July 20, complaining about intolerable working conditions at the landmark eatery at Metcalfe St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Danny Kaufer, the lawyer representing the restaurant, said it has been impossible to meet with a conciliator because union negotiator Patrick Brunet had been away on vacation. "I think it's fair to say there won't be much happening until after Labour Day," Kaufer said. "I have no idea when we will sit down again. I'll wait for his call, and we'll then decide when we can get together, everybody." But Charles Mendoza, president of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux local that represents the deli's workers, said it was Kaufer who was on vacation. "We had a replacement who was ready to negotiate with management while Patrick was away on holiday," Mendoza said. "It's Kaufer and the conciliator who were away. We are ready to sit down with them." The workers earn $8 an hour, on average. They have been without a contract since February. Since the workers set up a picket line, they have been collecting $200 a week in strike pay. The union is seeking a 40-cent-an-hour pay increase as well as a compensation package for employees who retire or leave. In addition, they want the heating and air conditioning system repaired, as well as other improvements to working conditions in the building. Ben's has been a Montreal fixture since Ben Kravitz opened his first deli on St. Laurent Blvd. in 1908. It has been at its present location since 1950. In its heyday, Ben's was an after-dark mecca for entertainers, actors, athletes and politicians, many of whom left their celebrity photographs on its walls.Veteran waiter Robert Mayrand, who has worked at Ben's for 52 years, says he's been approached to write his memoirs. "If this strike lasts much longer, I might just have the time to do that."
Forget about buying a Ben's smoked meat sandwich for awhile.Employees at the famous downtown deli went on strike Thursday for the first time in the restaurant's 98 year history, complaining of management by neglect. They cite a lack of air conditioning and management's contempt for their collective agreement as reasons for their walkout.The restaurant's lawyer Danny Kaufer says at the moment there are no discussions between the parties. "We will decide over the weekend what our next step will be.” Kaufer said.
Deli in a pickle; 'place to be' Ben's has seen better days In the long, frequently contentious and occasionally violent history of labour relations, the strike at Ben's may be the first in which one of the strikers' key demands is a toaster. Registered 7-day subscribers of The Gazette newspaper or electronic edition will enjoy full access to all montrealgazette.com content.
Eclectic, Under C$8 to C$12, Downtown Diner Rating:
This big, brassy deli is a Montréal institution, with 1950s furnishings and green and yellow walls hung with photos of celebrity customers. Sadly, the food, primarily smoked-meat sandwiches, isn't what it once was, but Ben's remains a good place for a late-night snack. Reservations not accepted. MC, V. Métro: Peel.
Un article de Wikipédia, l'encyclopédie libre. Aller à : navigation, Rechercher Cet article est une ébauche à compléter concernant le Québec, vous pouvez partager vos connaissances en le modifiant. Ben's est un restaurant de sandwichs à la viande fumée de Montréal, fondé en 1908 par Ben Kravitz et son épouse Fanny, un couple d'immigrantsjuifs originaires de Lituanie. Selon le guide de voyage Fodor's , il s'agit d'une véritable institution à Montréal. Par ailleurs, d'après Bootsnall travel—The ultimate ressource for the independant traveller, il semble que tous les Montréalais connaissent l'endroit comme l'un des endroits typiques de la ville . Le restaurant Ben's, aussi fréquemment appelé Ben's Deli (pour Delicatessen) est le premier restaurant de ce style à Montréal. Il était situé à l'origine dans le quartier du textile; il se trouve, depuis les années 1950, au coin du boulevard de Maisonneuve ouest et de la rue Metcalfe. Depuis lors, le décor et les menus n'ont pas changé, ce qui donne aux visiteurs l'impression d'emprunter une machine à remonter le temps et de se retrouver au beau milieu d'un film des années 1950. Côté décor, le mobilier est composé de tables et de chaises de style cafétéria rétro, et les murs tapissés de formica d'un jaune verdâtre arborent des publicités d'époque et des photographies de célébrités qui sont venues, au fil des époques, se restaurer des fameux sandwichs à la viande fumée de Ben. Cet endroit fut notamment, pendant un temps, l'un des repaires nocturnes préférés de Leonard Cohen. Le comptoir en formica est d'origine, tout comme les machines chromées qui se trouvent derrière (notamment la machine à chocolat chaud). Côté gastronomie, on y trouve les grands classiques du genre populaire que sont les Delicatessen en Amérique du Nord : outre les sandwichs à la viande fumée, des condiments kasher, des fritures, de la soupe à l'oignon, etc. D'autres restaurants du même genre à Montréal, comme Schwartz's et Dunn's, ont contribué à la réputation de la ville pour le Delicatessen. Pour la première fois en 98 ans d'existence, Ben's interrompt ses activités le 20 juillet2006, alors que 22 salariés affiliés à la CSN déclenchent une grève. Les cuisiniers, serveurs et débarasseurs, dont certains travaillent à la charcuterie depuis cinq décennies, réclament des patrons que le restaurant soit chauffé et climatisé convenablement. Selon les syndiqués, l'air conditionné n'a pas été réparé depuis 2005, et certains doivent porter des blousons pour travailler l'hiver. Ils réclament aussi une meilleure rémunération, qui tourne actuellement autour des 8 dollars l'heure, ainsi qu'un plus grand nombre d'employés en fonction lors des périodes de pointe.
Le smoked meat "Bens" est expédié par les scabs - Les travailleuses et les travailleurs du restaurant Ben's de Montréal sont en grève depuis deux mois
MONTREAL, le 4 oct. /CNW Telbec/ - Les 22 travailleuses et travailleursen grève au restaurant Bens de Montréal dénoncent le fait que le populairesmoked meat de marque Bens est toujours vendu un peu partout au Québec pendantque les grévistes crèvent de faim sur le trottoir.
A Rimouski, par exemple, le restaurant Chez Alfonse sert à ses clients laviande fumée rendue célèbre par la charcuterie de la rue De Maisonneuve, àMontréal, depuis près de 100 ans. Ce produit est également toujours vendu aurestaurant Au Vrai Smoked Meat, à Québec, et au restaurant Le Pub Steak Houseà Val d'Or.
La distribution du smoked meat sous l'étiquette "Ben's", fabriqué dansune usine de Laval, était jadis fait par les employés-es du restaurant. Or,depuis le 20 juillet 2006, ces mêmes travailleurs font la grève.
"Nous demandons aux propriétaires des restaurants qui continuent deservir la viande fumée avec l'étiquette Ben's de prendre conscience du faitque nous sommes en grève afin d'obtenir des conditions de travail décentes,dit Monsieur Charles Mendoza, président du Syndicat des travailleuses et destravailleurs du restaurant Ben's (CSN). Pour cette raison, nous leur prionsd'arrêter de servir le smoked meat Ben's jusqu'à ce que notre conflit detravail soit réglé."
La grève est la première dans l'histoire du restaurant, établi en 1908.Les travailleuses et les travailleurs du restaurant réclament une meilleurequalité de vie au travail. Ils en ont, entre autres, contre le fait que lerestaurant ne soit ni climatisé par grande chaleur, ni chauffé par grandfroid. Ce qu'ils souhaitent, c'est obtenir que l'employeur mette en place lesmoyens nécessaires pour que leur milieu de travail soit plus confortable. Ilsestiment avoir le droit de travailler dans un environnement convenable.
Les membres du syndicat se sont prononcés à 100 pour cent en faveur durecours à la grève. Leur convention collective est échue depuis le 15 février 2006.
Le syndicat est affilié à la Fédération du commerce, au Conseil centraldu Montréal métropolitain et à la Confédération des syndicats nationaux.Fondée en 1921, la CSN compte 300 000 membres oeuvrant dans tous les secteursd'activité.
Greve chez Ben's et piquetage de solidarité - Montréal
Date Fri, 1 Sep 2006 09:44:30 +0200 (CEST)
Greve a la charcuterie chez ben's Prochaine ligne de piquetage de solidarité :samedi le 2 septembre a 11h am coin Metcalfe et De Maisonneuve
Le 20 juillet dernier, les 22 employées du restaurant Chez Ben's, écoeuréEs deleurs conditions de travail pourries et du manque de respect de la part de leuremployeur, décide d'entrer en grève à l'unanimité.
Les travailleuses et travailleurs du restaurant réclament une meilleure qualité devie au travail. Tout d'abord, ils-elles sont outréEs que le restaurant ne soit niclimatisé par grande chaleur, ni chauffé par grands froids, ce qui peut causer desproblèmes de santé comme des coups de chaleurs, grippe et autres. D'autre part, lessyndiquéEs exigent qu'il y ait suffisamment de personnel au travail, car, pourcertains quarts de travail, aucun cuisinier n'est prévu à l'horaire lors de lapériodes de pointe, et ce sont donc les serveur-euse-s qui doivent préparer lesplats.Les employéEs désirent également que leurs horaires soient plus stables etqu'ils soient établis en fonction de l'ancienneté. Ilselles veulent aussi améliorercertains aspects de la convention collective pour accélérer le règlement deslitiges et inclure une compensation financière en cas de fermeture del'établissement. Enfin, les syndiquéEs souhaitent obtenir une semaine de vacancessupplémentaire après 25 ans de service et améliorer leurs salaires.
Le moral Chez les syndiquéEs est élevé, car, pour la plupart d'entre eux-elles, lefond de grève leur donne à peu près l'équivalent de leur salaire habituel. De plus,puisque la grève paralyse le restaurant, le patron perde de l'argent chaque jour.Les syndiqués ont donc pour l'instant le gros bout du bâton.
Le conflit de Chez Ben's démontre bien la précarité que vivent lestravailleurs-euses de la restauration. Une fois de plus, on constate que le profitpasse avant le bien-être des employéEs, ce qui est également le cas dans la plupartdes restaurants. C'est pourquoi les travailleur-euse-s doivent s'organiser sur desbasses syndicale afin de changer en profondeur leur condition de travail.
Le Réseau de solidarité des travailleuseseurs soutient la lutte des syndiquées quiest présentement en cours Chez Ben's. Le RST participera aux actions organisées parles syndiquéEs et ira piqueter afin de démontrer son appui.La lutte continu
Le Réseau de solidarité des travailleuses-eurs rst.wsn(a)gmail.com514-830-0066
Pour Murray Kravitz, il est inconcevable qu’un restaurant comme Ben’s n’ait pas de grille-pain depuis deux ans. Le lave-vaisselle n’est pas fonctionnel non plus. « Nous n’avons même pas de savon pour laver les plats », renchérit-il, en ajoutant que ni le système de climatisation ni le système de chauffage ne fonctionnent convenablement. La température de la salle à manger, trop chaude en été, trop froide en hiver, a un effet direct sur l’achalandage, et donc sur les pourboires des serveurs.
« Tout est sale dans le restaurant, parce qu’il n’y a plus de concierge. Avant, il y en avait trois. Aujourd’hui, aucun ! », regrette M. Kravitz. Le manque de personnel s’applique aussi aux cuisines : le cuisinier termine son quart de travail à 22 h, alors que le restaurant est ouvert jusqu’à minuit. « Les serveurs doivent alors préparer les plats eux-mêmes », précise M. Mendoza.
« Nous ne savons pas quand nous retournerons à la table de négociation. Les employeurs et leurs avocats refusent de nous parler. Mais nous sommes prêts à maintenir le piquet de grève jusqu’à ce que l’employeur accepte de négocier ! », conclut Charles Mendoza, convaincu.
Alors que la référence du smoked meat s’apprête bientôt à fêter son premier centenaire, il semble que les conditions de travail qui prévalent chez Ben’s datent aussi d’il y a cent ans. Depuis le 20 juillet dernier, les 22 travailleurs du restaurant sont en grève. Et le conflit de travail ne paraît pas prêt de se terminer.
À l’origine du litige : une lutte pour de meilleures conditions de travail et le respect des employés, explique Charles Mendoza, président du Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de la Charcuterie Ben’s : « Notre convention collective s’est terminée en février. L’administration voulait la renouveler pour deux ans, et nous avons fermement répondu non. Nous avons exprimé nos demandes, et ils ont tout simplement refusé chacune d’entre elles. »
Les employés ont fait appel à un conciliateur afin de faciliter le dialogue avec Jean Kravitz, la propriétaire, et son fils Elliott Kravitz. « Nous avons eu deux rencontres avec le conciliateur, et ils n’ont pas voulu acquiescer à une seule de nos demandes [...] Depuis, nous n’avons eu aucune nouvelle des employeurs », déplore M. Mendoza
Murray Kravitz figure aussi parmi les grévistes. « Il est boss boy, il est plongeur, il est concierge, et parfois [la propriétaire] lui demande même d’aller tondre le gazon. Une seule personne pour faire tout ça ! », s’insurge M. Mendoza. Tout comme son frère Brian, qui travaille également chez Ben’s, Murray est le petit-fils de Ben Kravitz, fondateur en 1908 du restaurant qui porte son nom. Murray et Brian Kravitz sont aujourd’hui en grève contre leur propre tante, qui a hérité du restaurant il y a quelques années.
« J’ai tellement honte, soupire Murray Kravitz. Parfois, les clients me demandent si je suis de la famille, parce qu’ils reconnaissent les traits de mon visage. Je réponds que non, tellement j’ai honte. Avec une telle famille, je n’ai pas tant besoin d’ennemis... » Le climat qui règne au restaurant est totalement différent du temps où le fils du fondateur, Irving Kravitz, dirigeait l’entreprise, tient-il à préciser.
Charles Mendoza déplore le manque de respect et le harcèlement auxquels les employés, dont certains ont jusqu’à 52 ans d’ancienneté, sont confrontés quotidiennement. « La propriétaire va jusqu’à garder les tomates dans son bureau. Quand on en a besoin, on doit monter dans son bureau, prendre deux tomates à la fois et signer un papier attestant ce que nous allons en faire ! »
We are the employees of Ben’s Delicatessen who have been on strike since July 20th 2006. Cooks, cashiers and servers who love their restaurant dearly. Many amongst us have worked at Ben’s for decades and we have helped build the Ben’s reputation that has lasted 98 years. Unfortunately, the environment in which we work has deteriorated to the point where only a strike can get us the respect we deserve.
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because we want to serve our valued customers in a pleasant atmosphere. Many of our demands specifically concern the quality of service. Furthermore, we are striking for more stability in our scheduling and a monetary recognition or those who have helped establish the Ben’s reputation. We hope to conclude our collective agreement in a rapid and satisfactory manner. Once the conflict is resolved, it will be our pleasure to welcome you in our restaurant and serve you our famous smoked meat with our customary professionalism. Thank you
Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de la charcuterie Ben’s (CSN)
DENORS POUR SE FAIRE RESPECTER ET POUR AMÉLIORER LE RESTAURANT
Message aux passants,
Nous sommes les emplyé -e-s de la charcuterie Ben’s, en greve depuis le 20 Juillet dernier. Des cusiniers, des caissieres et des serveus qui aiment profdément leur restaurant. Plusieurs d’entre nous travaillent chez Ben’s depuis des décennies et nous avons contribué à construire la réputation de cette institution vielle de 98 ans. Malheureusement, les condition dans lesquelles nous exerç ons notre métier se sont détériorées à un point tel que seule la gréve peut nous permettre de se faire respecter.
Pourquoi sommes-nous en géve?
Parce que nous voulons vous server dans des conditions agreables. Une bonne partie de nou revendications touché directement la qualité du service à la clientele. De plus, nous demandons advantage de stabilité dans nos horaires et une certaine reconnaissance pécuniaire pour ceux et celles qui ont fait de Ben’s le restaurant repute qu’il est. Nous souhaitons la coclusion rapide et satisfaisante de notre convention collective. Lorsque le conflit sera terminé, il nous fera grand plaisir de vous accueillir dans notre restaurant et de vous server notre fameux smoked-meat avec tout le prefessionnalisme que vous connaissez. Merci!
Syndicat des travailleuses et travialleurs de la charcuterie Ben’s (CSN)
Une petite histoire du restaurant Ben’s Delicatessen
En 1908, Ben Kravitz et sa femme Fanny ouvrent le restaurant BEN’S Delicatessen au coin des rues Burnside (aujourd’hui Maisonneuve) et Metcalfe. Le restaurant devient rapidement très populaire atteignant le statut d’institution montréalaise. Suite au décès de Ben en 1956, ses trois fils Al, Irving et Sollie assument le contrôle du restaurant qui continue de faire les beaux jours et les belles nuits du centre-ville.
C’est seulement suite au décès de Irving en 1992 que les choses commencent à se détériorer. Sa veuve et son fils (Jean et Elliot) deviennent alors très impliqués dans le fonctionnement du restaurant, malgré leur manque total d’expérience dans ce domaine. Les employés décident de se syndiquer en 1995. Malheureusement, malgré leurs efforts, les conditions de travail continues de se détériorer notamment après la mort du dernier fils de Ben, All, en 2000.
Aujourd’hui, en septembre 2006, nous en sommes au quatrième renouvellement de notre convention collective qui est échue depuis le 17 février dernier. Les patrons ont toujours eu beaucoup de difficulté à appliquer les conventions collectives qu’ils avaient signé et nos conditions de travail sont descendues en dessous d’un seuil acceptable. Le système de climatisation ne fonctionne plus depuis 2 ans et le chauffage en hiver est déficient. La quantité de verres, vaisselle et ustensiles ne peut pas soutenir une période d’achalandage moyenne. Les employés qui quittent ne sont pas remplacés forçant ainsi, les autres à accomplir une surcharge de travail.
Nous exigeons le respect, un arrêt du harcèlement, des augmentations de salaire ainsi que des conditions de travail decentes. C’est pour toutes ces raisons que nous sommes en grève depuis le 20 juillet dernier suite à un vote secret unanime. Depuis cette date, l’employeur refuse de négocier mais nous sommes plus déterminés que jamais à poursuivre notre lutte tant et aussi longtemps que nous n’aurons pas atteint nos objectifs. Nous voulons négocier.
En terminant, nous désirons remercier la CSN et son conseil exécutif qui nous représente et nous appuie à 100%.
Le syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de la Charcuterie BEN’S.
A brief history about Ben’s Delicatessen restaurant
Ben’s Delicatessen was established in 1908 by Ben Kravitz and his wife Fanny. They set up shop at the corner of Metcalfe’s and Burnside Ave (Now de Maissoneuve). The restaurant became very popular and remained so for years to come. The restaurant continued to flourish after Ben’s death in 1956, when his three sons Al, Sollie and Irving assumed the ownership of the business.
Things changed upon the death of Irving at which point, control of the restaurant shifted to his widow and his son (Jean and Elliot). That is when working condition started deteriorating and the harassment began. The employees decided to Unionize in 1995. Despite these efforts conditions kept on declining, especially after the death of Al, the last surviving son, in 2000.
Which bring us to now, September 2006, and our third collective agreement which expired on February 17th. The bosses never respected any collective agreement they signed and working conditions have devolved to a point that is untenable. The climatization climatization system broke down and no efforts have been made to get it repaired, therefore it gets extremely hot in the summer and quite cold in the winter. The dishes, glasses and utensils supply are not sufficient to accommodate even medium business. When employees leave or retire, they are not replaced, forcing the remaining stuff to fulfill their duties.
We are demanding respect, a stop to the harassment and decent work condition. For these reasons, in July, we asked the employees for a vote which was given unanimously and we acted upon it on July 20th. Since that date, we did not hear a word from the bosses’ side. We are ready to keep striking for as long as it takes to get our demand met. We are ready to sit down to talk any time, day or night, weekdays or weekends.
Finally, we would like to thanks the CSN and CTS executive committee for their continued support.
The Union/Syndicate for the employees in Charcuterie BEN’S.
This is considered by some as an institution in Montreal (mostly by tourists who visit Montreal frequently... just kidding). The decor has probably changed since it opened (1908), but it has stayed the same for a long time so it has a 40's look with its yellow formica panelling and green trim. It looks exactly like what you would imagine, including the old man sleeping in the corner, the 40's menus and the photographs of celebrities that ate there.There are three kinds of smoked meat places in Montreal : the places that sell industrial smoked meat (that comes in pouches to be boiled.. you should stay away from those. They are easy to spot, the meat is sliced very thin and the sandwiches are about the size and shape of a small fist), the places that don't make their own smoked meat but buy it from a local supplier (Ruben's, Dunn's which is closed now, Lester's, Nickels... and Ben's) and the places that make their own smoked meat (The Main and Schwartz's). Since Ben's uses the same supplier as some other places, it tastes the same as the others (good but not the best). Ben's smoked tastes more like pastrami than The Main's for instance, which tastes like smoked roast beef. Ben's is also less tender but certainly less stringy than the industrial kind. So if you are in a hurry to taste Montreal smoked meat and can't get to The Main or Schwartz's (on St-Laurent blvd. just north of Des Pins ave.), Ben's the place... or one of the places altough the other ones don't have the same history.I ordered the Big Ben ($7.95), which is a double portion of smoked meat with fries, a pickle and coleslaw. The meat was as described above : large slices but tastes too much like pastrami and the meat wasn't as tender as it should be. The real disappointment was the fries, pickle and coleslaw. The fries were dry but not crispy (tasted like those frozen store-bought fries), the pickle was minuscule and the slaw was in a tiny little paper cup that came apart (it was probably sitting there for a while). Again, much better fries, pickles and coleslaw at The Main.The service is said to be much friendlier than at the other two delis on St-Laurent blvd., which would be a reason to go to Ben's instead, but it was more "less rude" than friendly (the guy looked like he was very tired of doing his job). By the way, they sell t-shirts at the cash register if you are interested.
Always call before going to a restaurant, just in case the restaurant is closed or are on vacation. You can also check if you need to make reservations. The reviews on this site only reflect my opinion and I am not a professional restaurant reviewer.
Web site : Address : 990 de Maisonneuve west, corner of Metcalfe. Metro station : Peel, de Maisonneuve exit or through the Cours Mont-Royal Tel : (514) 844-1000
Deli employees switch pickles for pickets as contract negotiations go awry
Ben's strike Steve Campbell for the McGill Daily
By Sara FreemanNews Writer
Robert Mayrand has been serving smoked-meat on rye, club sandwiches, and half-sour pickles for more than half a century at Ben’s Delicatessen, the Montreal landmark on the corner of Metcalfe and Maisonneuve. But not for the past seven weeks. Mayrand and his 21 unionized colleagues walked out on July 20, after months of complaints over deteriorating working conditions and their employer’s failure to present an adequate contract after the last one expired in February. Mayrand, who is 72 and has been an employee since the early fifties, said that the strike was a last resort. “It’s not because I want to complain. Ben’s is a part of my heart, I’ve spent more time there than with my own wife, but [the management] have lost their respect,” he said. The staff’s demands include air-conditioning, improved heating, a 10 per cent salary augmentation over two years, changes to the shift scheduling policy, and the implementation of a retirement package.
Waiters have also complained about the overall management of the restaurant, and claim that the owners have little loyalty toward their staff. “In March, one of the waiters who had been there for 42 years quit, and they never even wrote him a note,” said Charles Mendoza, the head of the union and a Ben’s employee since 1987. In the early nineties the restaurant came under the control of Jean Kravitz, the widow to one of three Kravitz sons, and her son. Neither could be reached before printing, but Danny Kaufer, their lawyer, said that all parties were re-evaluating their positions, and that he would be in touch with the strike conciliator some time this week. “I don’t negotiate through the press,” he said. The original Ben’s, founded in 1908 by Ben Kravitz, was located on St. Laurent. Having made its way to the corner of Metcalfe and Maisonneuve in 1950, it became a place you might have spotted Pierre Trudeau and Leonard Cohen sitting at opposite ends of the large dining hall. It now primarily serves lunch to tourists and people working downtown, in an atmosphere of decaying vinyl and friendly multilingualism. “Some of us speak French, some of us speak English. We’re Arabic, black, Jewish, Greek, Bangladeshi. We sing, we dance, we joke. We’re 100 per cent united,” Mayrand said. The deli once employed 72 staff members, and now has 22. Striking staff have complained about having to simultaneously perform the duties of a cook, slicing meat, and making sandwiches while serving customers. As the strike continues, the tables have turned, as regulars show their support with offerings of food, drinks, and friendly banter at the picket line. “They bring coffee and danishes and one of them even told me she’d been thinking of preparing a chicken-pot pie for us,” Mayrand said.
"It was back in 1908 when Ben Kravitz and his wife Fanny produced the first smoked meat sandwich . . ."So runs the copy on the cover of the menu at Ben's Montreal Deli (we'll forget the deleted apostrophe, shall we? No tongue troopers here.)The folks at Schwartz's might debate the Ben's-centric view of the origin of the smoked-meat sandwich, but Elvis's father was in diapers when the original Ben's opened in the garment district of Montreal back near the turn of the century.While the Ben's of today doesn't timewarp you back that far, you're at least in for an instant trip to the fifties, if not the forties. I'd warrant nothing has changed for at least three decades—not the aging lemon-yellow formica on the support columns of the vast, hospital cafeteria-style room, not the 50s chrome siding behind the counter and definitely not the cracking padded seats of the spindly metal chairs. Obviously, the dinerteria look is a large part of the charm. Ben's is often mentioned in the same breath as Schwartz's and Snowdon Deli as the place to get authentic Montreal smoked meat.If you're not a big fan of smoked meat, though, there's not a whole lot to recommend the place. There are no frills here. Order a "bacon-cheeseburger" and you'll get just that: a smallish hamburger roll, some fried ground beef, a slice of Kraft cheese and two strips of bacon. No lettuce, pickles, onions, nor the offer of any. All for $4.95.The smoked meat sandwich deal is also a dilemma. The basic sandwich ($4.50) is just two slices of rye with a mound of warm smoked meat between 'em—condiments being your choice of yellow mustard, ketchup or vinegar. This is enough smoked meat to last me a week, but the next step up, the platter, ($6.95) with sides of fries, pickles and coleslaw, is only available with twice the amount of smoked meat. You can't order the smaller sandwich and get the sides unless you order them à la carte.The menu is quite large, with spaghetti dishes (can't call it pasta here) served with chopped smoked meat (!), potato latkes and even smoked-meat fried rice and smoked meat egg rolls. My companion tried the cabbage rolls, which were stuffed with corned beef and rice and swimming in a generic tomato sauce. Like someone warned me before going: bring Bromo.The smoked meat on my sandwich was warm and spicy, the fries were greasy, the coleslaw and the pickles were limp, but this is not Caprice de Ben's, this is diner food, preferably eaten while half-incapacitated after a long night clubbing, something I haven't done for, oh, about twenty years.
La Confédération des syndicats nationaux est une organisation syndicale nationale, démocratique et libre. Elle est formée de syndicats, de fédérations et de conseils centraux couvrant tout le territoire du Québec. Elle entend lutter pour la création de structures sociales, économiques, politiques et culturelles qui garantissent l’épanouissement de l’ensemble des citoyennes et des citoyens dans notre société.
La CSN dans l’histoire du Quebec La CSN, encore au cœur des luttes En 1921, à Hull, 220 travailleuses et travailleurs, représentant 80 syndicats formés dans divers secteurs d’activité se réunissaient en congrès pour fonder la Confédération des travailleurs catholiques du Canada (CTCC). En 1960, la CTCC se déconfessionnalisait pour devenir la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), telle que nous la connaissons aujourd’hui. La CTCC d’hier luttait, entre autres, contre l’exploitation des ouvrières et des ouvriers dans des usines insalubres, elle combattait la corruption et la complaisance des dirigeants politiques devant des situations révoltantes, de même qu’elle s’opposait fortement à la domination syndicale et économique américaine. La CSN d’aujourd’hui soutient avec autant de conviction la nécessité de transformations politiques, économiques, sociales et syndicales pour l’amélioration de la qualité de vie et du bien-être de ses membres et de l’ensemble de la population. L’histoire de la CSN, c’est également celle du Québec dans laquelle elle plonge profondément ses racines. En 1990, la CSN a optée officiellement pour la souveraineté politique du Québec. Elle a toujours été partie prenante des débats et des luttes populaires pour une société plus juste, plus égalitaire et démocratique. Que ce soit le droit à la syndicalisation, pour l’égalité des femmes sur le marché du travail ou encore, pour combattre la discrimination sous toutes ses formes, la CSN a toujours pris le parti de combattre l’injustice. Son action est inspirée de la volonté et de la capacité des travailleuses et des travailleurs et de la population d’améliorer leur quotidien. Vous trouverez ci-dessous des documents qui relatent l'histoire de la CSN :
Les amateurs de smoked meat ne pourront visiter le légendaire restaurant Chez Ben's pour une période indéterminée. Le doyen des établissements montréalais spécialisé dans ce type de sandwich est actuellement fermé en raison d'un conflit de travail. Les 22 employés en grève réclament une convention collective, comme l’explique
Under the eye of a security guard at the entrance, striking employees of Ben's picket yesterday outside the deli restaurant, a favourite destination of many visitors to Montreal. The employees have been without a contract since February. Photograph by : MARCOS TOWNSEND, THE GAZETTE
First strike at landmark eatery. The issue is management by neglect, restaurant's veteran employees charge
ALAN HUSTAK, The GazettePublished: Saturday, July 22, 06
Forget about having a Ben's smoked meat sandwich for a while. For the first time since he began working at Ben's Delicatessen 52 years ago, waiter Robert Mayrand found himself out on the street yesterday, walking a picket line. About 22 unionized employees at the renowned downtown restaurant - including waiters, bus boys and short-order cooks - went on strike Thursday. The issue is management by neglect, they say. "It used to be a pleasure to work at Ben's," Mayrand said. "But ever since Irving Kravitz died (in 1992) and his wife and son took over, things have steadily gone downhill. "Ten years ago, we had 75 people working here. Now it's down to about 25. This used to be an institution, something to be proud of, but Ben's has been coasting on its reputation for years." The workers have been without a contract since February. In addition to demands for better working conditions, their union is seeking a five-per-cent wage increase in a two-year contract, and improved benefits, including severance pay. Ben's employees make $8 an hour, on average, said Charles Mendoza, president of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux local that represents the deli's workers. "We're looking for a 40-cent-an-hour increase," he said. "We want management to respect the collective agreement and give employees who retire a compensation package." If an employee like Mayrand, with 52 years service, were to resign tomorrow, he would leave with nothing - "no bonus, no watch, not even a handshake," said Mendoza, who has worked at Ben's for 19 years. He said improved working conditions are also an issue. "The air conditioning broke down last year and they haven't bothered to fix it," Mendoza said. "In the winter it's so chilly, waiters sometimes have to keep their coats on while waiting on tables." The restaurant's owner, Jean Kravitz, hung up yesterday when a Gazette reporter called for comment. Danny Kaufer, a lawyer for the Kravitz family, said negotiations were to take place Monday, but instead the union chose to exercise its legal right to strike. "We respect that right," Kaufer said. "At the moment there are no discussions between the parties. We will decide over the weekend what our next step will be." Ben's has been a Montreal landmark since Ben Kravitz opened his first delicatessen on St. Lawrence Blvd. in 1908. It has been at its present location, at the corner of Metcalfe St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., since 1950. A steady stream of customers who arrived for lunch yesterday were disappointed to learn of the walkout. Walter Decker, visiting from Hamilton, Ont., had hoped to introduce his wife to Ben's smoked meat. "I've been to Ben's before, she hasn't," he explained. "It's too bad we can't get in, but I guess the employees have their reasons." Norma Cameron, a tourist from Minneapolis, Minn., said one of the things she and her daughter, Jill, wanted to do here "was to go to Ben's." For a souvenir, Cameron's daughter took a picture of her mother standing outside the deli's locked doors instead.