Twenty-six frustrated Easy Tiger servers have either quit or are planning to leave the local chain's East 7th Street location, according to employees involved. But management has a different story on the “walkout” and the events leading up to it.
In an Instagram post from the Texas Service Industry Coalition page, an anonymous employee said that a total of 26 employees have walked out, put in their two weeks or made plans to leave after a new president, Sue Kim, joined the team in January.
"The basis of our mass 'walkout is the level of respect we have been receiving since January," the post read. "(Kim has) come in full force changing venue layouts which requires the servers to move 50+ 200 lb tables multiple times, completely gutting our menus, and even shortening our venue hours (with little-to-no heads up for the employees.)"
An employee who spoke with Austonia and wished to remain anonymous to avoid possible repercussions, said the location staff met Kim at a meeting in early March. Austonia's source said Kim interrupted the manager and gave a "long and intense speech" on her passion for serving people, leaving the restaurant before any staff members had the chance to introduce themselves.
More unrest occurred during SXSW last month when the East 7th location was primed to be the chain's prime festival spot.
"(Kim's) idea was to have it set up sort of like a fair/carnival, where you had to buy tickets in order to buy anything else," the source said. "The pricing for the tickets was absurd and led to over half of our customers just walking away instead of buying anything, so our tips were almost nothing by the time the week was over."
Shortly after, both the Instagram post and the source said that Kim called the restaurant's General Manager and Assistant Manager "r****d stupid and unable to talk to their employees," prompting two managers to put in their two weeks. Because the Easy Tiger staff had become what both sources called "a big family," as many as 30 others followed or plan to follow suit.
"We don't want to work somewhere we won't be respected or have people to stick up for us, and without those two managers (we) wouldn't have that safety anymore," the source said.
An Easy Tiger representative told Austonia that the name-calling event never happened.
"We vehemently defend our leadership team and deny any of the rumors spreading about verbal abuse and name-calling; that is just not true and we would never condone it," the representative said.
According to the representative, five employees did not show up at the location immediately following SXSW. The representative said that 12 of its 80 staff members have given notice since, making short-term net turnover 10% and "on par with industry averages."
"The allegation of a 26-person 'walkout' is completely false," the representative said. "Each employee situation is unique and personal and we respect that. People have a choice where they work and we support that. For all staff who chose to leave, we paid them out fully for their two weeks’ notice period as part of our standard practice."
The representative also said that the ticketing model was made "to speed guest service and help our staff," but because it didn't work, the company suspended it midstream and gave around $11,000 in sales to support staff.
Austonia's source says that others are planning to leave, however, prompting the "walkout" claim, and that they won't stay unless the manager is removed from staff.
But with plans to "reevaluate (its) core service model" and "focusing the menu," according to the Easy Tiger representative, the source said there are rumors that Easy Tiger will soon rid its East 7th location of servers altogether.
"There’s been no attempt on (Kim's) part to explain any of the changes or accommodate to any of the employees," the source said. "We have all been left to wonder about the security of our jobs... (Kim's) whole time here has been extremely impersonal."
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Homegrown band Nané announced via social media that the group's frontman, 29-year-old Daniel Sahad, died on Sunday night.
Sahad had been singing for Nané since he started the rock and soul band in Austin six years ago. The news comes as a shock to the Austin community, who are offering their condolences and sharing memories on social media. The cause of death has yet to be announced.
The group of five best known for its song "Always On My Mind," put down roots while studying at The University of Texas at Austin, where Sahad and guitarist Ian Green met in 2016. In time, Dayglow drummer Brady Knippa, bassist Scott McIntyre and Black Pumas keyboardist JaRon Marshall joined in.
The band most recently performed at Austin City Hall and the Tesla grand opening party on Thursday but has made several appearances at ACL Festival, South by Southwest, and NPR's Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf. Nané was scheduled to perform at Float Fest and Karbach Love Street Music Festival in 2022.
The high-energy group headlined for Black Pumas, Sir Woman, Bob Schneider and Eric Tessmer, while releasing its debut album with Grammy-award-winning drummer John Speice IV in November 2020.
Fans of the band have taken to social media to pay their respects, saying Sahad will "live forever."
When i was backstage at the Black Fret ball in December, all the local big shots were too cool to talk to or mingle w me. But Daniel Sahad did give me a big hug and small talked with me. That was more than enough to get me in a good mood. Rest in peace. He’ll live forever.
— OMNICRON (@TheYoungMarcus) April 11, 2022
Austin Texas Musicians mourned the "incomprehensible loss."
Our community has suffered an incomprehensible loss with the passing of rising star Daniel Sahad, lead singer of Nané. pic.twitter.com/qaaLXJtLHG
— Austin Texas Musicians (@atxmusicians) April 11, 2022
Those who attended ACL 2021 remembered seeing Nané perform on the first weekend.
Very sad to learn that Daniel Sahad of @NaneTheBand has passed. Such a talented young man with a big heart. Much love to the family and the band today.
Here’s video I took of him opening the final day of @aclfestival in 2021. 💔 pic.twitter.com/WzwDvNs1ZD
— Ed Espinoza (@EdEspinoza) April 11, 2022
Austin FC fans and music lovers overlapped when it came to Sahad—La Murga mourned the news by remembering jumping onstage at the band's ACL 2021 performance.
Our hearts break for Daniel's friends and family. A rising star in the #ATX music scene who showed La Murga love and humility by inviting us perform on stage with @NaneTheBand at ACL 2021. Here's to the memories we shared and the music you shared with us.
💚🖤💚🖤 #Verde https://t.co/xPFPrDXMAW pic.twitter.com/3p7Eb0uyKG
— La Murga de Austin (@LaMurgaATX) April 11, 2022
Though the announcement has been live for less than a few hours, support is pouring in from hundreds of fans on Facebook.
Walking around Austin, crypto’s influence is hard to avoid. Billboards promoting Bitcoin are plastered around the city, flyers downtown have QR codes that lead to advertisements for courses on decentralized finance and social groups are finding ways to draw in more people.
But not everyone has warmed up to the idea of crypto becoming more widespread. At SXSW, local and national media questioned the attention that crypto grabbed throughout the festivities with installations like Doodle. Beyond the festival, questions have been raised about some of the possible side effects of individuals and the city of Austin getting in on crypto.
Beneficial or risky?
Vice wrote that a common talking point at SXSW involved the money missed out on if people don’t join in on crypto. But the people who receive the message that crypto is lucrative have some feeling worried.
Tonantzin Carmona, a fellow at the Washington D.C. think tank the Brookings Institution, has noted that there’s a growing number of unbanked or underbanked populations trying their hand at crypto.
“My fear is people are making these claims that cryptocurrencies are going to solve these issues without explaining adequately how cryptocurrencies promote financial inclusion or equity, and how do we know that they aren’t actually hurting the most vulnerable and putting them at risk?” Carmona asked.
She went on to add that offerings like payday loans and subprime mortgages once made similar promises as an innovative step that could help communities who lacked access to mainstream services. In those instances, some users then faced financial woes.
“Are we promoting access to a riskier product?” Carmona said. “How does that solve issues of equity?”
Inclusion and jobs
At last week’s city council meeting, two crypto resolutions passed.
One of them called for the city manager to study how the city could use or hold crypto and the other directs the city manager to see how Austin could foster Web3 and blockchain projects. Some, including Austin Justice Coalition, voiced their thoughts that Austin has bigger priorities.
For many Austinites, some of those priorities may include gentrification and displacement. Other places that have seen an explosion of crypto like Puerto Rico and Miami are also managing soaring costs of living.
But at least having knowledge of crypto may come in handy for Austinites. Abena Primo, a professor in the school of business and technology at Huston-Tillotson University, informally teaches people about decentralized finance through her recently-launched newsletter. On-campus, it's become a natural learning avenue, as many of her students own crypto and ask her questions about it.
"With my work, I'm trying to make it not be a gentrification type of project," Primo said. "I'm hoping that by educating people at Huston-Tillotson University and in the community here, that people of color will not be left behind as they were with the internet revolution."
And it's not as though Defi lessons have taken over since Web3 is "still somewhat hypothetical," Primo says. With HTU placing high value on job attainment for their students, Primo says specialization in something like computer science will make the job hunt easier than only having skills in blockchain technology.
Leading up to the vote, some council members voiced worries over crypto's environmental impact and there was confusion over which applications of crypto required greater energy use. Eventually, someone explained the proof of work versus proof of stake methods. Those that rely on proof of work consensus mechanisms, like Bitcoin, involve “significant levels of energy consumption.”
And it's not just consumption. The large quantities of electricity required in crypto mining can have a spillover effect into local economies, like in Upstate New York where residents faced higher electricity bills.
Still, Mayor Steve Adler laid out the debate on its energy consumption.
“I’ve heard both those arguments,” Adler said. “I haven’t heard anybody that I trust actually or feels impartial to actually weigh those two factors, and I hope that’s part of the analysis of Council Member Kelly’s resolution that I think it’s covered there.”
Like others in the city, council seems split on just how crypto should be addressed in Austin. Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter warmed up to the resolution on fostering Web3 but not the one that'd involve the study of the city holding or using crypto.
“I'm really uncomfortable with the notion of us accepting payments in crypto anytime soon, I'd be happy to take a donation. And I'm pretty sure that if somebody offered a sizable donation in crypto to the city, we'd figure out a way to accept it without this direction,” Alter said before abstaining from the resolution for studying the city's holding or use of crypto.
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