ACADIA NAT’L PARK — A walkout by a group of Jordan Pond House restaurant employees during the afternoon shift last Friday ended with three managers out of a job and eight lower-level employees back at work.
The walkout was primarily over a reduction in overtime hours for the employees from eastern European countries who are in the United States on J-1 visas that allow them to work here for a few months. Most of them work clearing tables or doing other food service support jobs.
A group of them went to Ed Noonan, general manager of the Jordan Pond House, on Friday to complain about the cut in overtime hours. Connor Lukkar, now the former sous-chef at the restaurant, said the J-1 employees were told there was nothing that could be done.
“They ended up backing down and going back in to work,” he said.
Lukkar said that around 2 p.m., his wife, Megan Walton, and Ingrid Travers, both service managers at Jordan Pond House, led a small group of J-1 workers out of the restaurant and down to the edge of the pond. He said that when he learned about that, he joined them.
“Initially there were nine [J-1 workers], but two went back very early.”
Lukkar said all but one of the other J-1 employees went back to work later. When he and the other two managers left the property, he said, “We had one Bulgarian busser who went with us.”
He said that when the three managers who walked out went to talk with Noonan the next day, “We were fired, informed of our termination.”
Noonan said Tuesday that they were not fired.
“They resigned. They resigned prior to that action,” he said.
As for the J-1 employees who took part in the brief strike, he said, “They all came back and are still working for us with the exception of one who resigned.”
Noonan explained why the J-1 employees had their overtime hours reduced.
“In August, with a lot of people on the island, we needed a lot of help,” he said. “Now in September, we had to make some adjustments to the schedule and reduce overtime. They were concerned and came and talked to us about it.”
Noonan suggested that at least some of the J-1 workers who took part in the walkout weren’t fully aware of what was happening.
“I had some managers who said, ‘Let’s go,’ and went down to the pond,” Noonan said. “Understandably, English isn’t the best thing for the J-1s and they didn’t quite understand. They went down and all of a sudden found out what the sentiments of some of the people were and came back.”
Noonan said he is finishing his fourth year at Jordan Pond House, which will close for the season Oct. 21.
“I’ve never had an issue like this before,” he said. “We think very highly of the people who work for us and were just surprised by everything that happened.”
He said the J-1 employees will be leaving over the next three weeks or so.
“They are allowed in the U.S. for a certain period of time, and they get phased in and out,” he said.
“These are all college students, and they have to go back to school. And different countries in Europe have different dates for when school starts.”
Jordan Pond House is managed by Dawnland, LLC. The company took over management of the restaurant in 2014, after being awarded the park’s concession contract in 2013.