“It’s one of those ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ scenarios,” explains Joyner.
A few months back, Joyner and Lokoff had T-shirts screenprinted that said “Shame on MilkBoy” in response to the first banner. They hung a sign in the window advertising the shirts right above the union banner. All proceeds go to a fund set up for a neighborhood bartender who just underwent a kidney transplant. The union changed banners, and MilkBoy made new T-shirts.
“We’re trying to make light of it,” says Lokoff. “We’re trying to laugh.”
There’s little else to do: bannering is legal, and union protestors can send whatever message to whoever they want as long as they want. Ironically, the legal fees of seeking relief through the system are, like the cost of the job if it had been all-union, cost-prohibitive.
“Who’s going to stand up for us?” asks Lokoff.
If Lokoff were to open another business in Philadelphia in the future, would he consider pushing for all-union to avoid all of this?
“If I had the money,” he pauses. “Maybe."
Trade unions’ traditional war tactics rely on a balance of unabashed intimidation and harassment, murky political connections and public-relations campaigns that cast them as the victims.
It’s a recent afternoon inside the new downtown MilkBoy location, a two-floor space at 11th and Chestnut streets that will be coffee bar by morning, pub by afternoon and music venue by night, and co-owner Tommy Joyner is hustling to get the place in shape to open up next week.