A Tale of Two Fathers: Part Two
I hope you enjoyed part 1 of a Tale of Two Fathers.
We are back in action for part 2! Now you’ll be hearing about the other important father in my life—my brother, Monty, who officially became a father just a few weeks ago.
Let’s follow his journey!
My Brother's Journey
When I moved to Hawaii, my little brother decided to come with me. For better or for worse, he’d already started following in my footsteps, working in the hospitality industry.
He got his first dishwashing job at the age of 14 and at that age, he was just as excited as I was about working his way up the line to become a cook, or even a chef one day.
He didn’t stay in Hawaii for too long. He was young, and still hadn’t quite found his groove, while I was starting to settle in and really make an effort in my community college education.
So we said, “Aloha,” and Monty moved back to Ohio for a little while, and then to Tuscon, where he did find his career groove: working in the front of house, as a server.
The hours were better, the working environment was better, and the pay was much, MUCH better.
I had found the same thing in my restaurant career. Cooks were (and still are, in many cases), underappreciated, thought of as easily replaceable, and underpaid, even though they are the backbone of restaurants, working through heat, pressure, and chaos to provide beautiful meals for guests. Without cooks, there would be no… food. Which a restaurant KINDA needs in order to operate.
Anyway, we'll talk more about that later, but for now, let's keep following my brother's journey.
Finding His Footing
When he started working as a server, he finally got a taste of a decent income. He spent a couple of years in Arizona, then moved back to Ohio to be closer to family and friends. That’s where he found the job that he would hold down for a decade: a serving position at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Cleveland.
Fleming’s is a national company with around 70 stores, but each franchise has some independence in terms of ownership and operations. Now Monty was making great money, but he did notice something…
“The changes they make are incremental. We started off having most holidays off. Then, we have to work New Year’s Day. Okay, not the end of the world. But then the next year, it’s Christmas Eve. And the year after that, it’s Thanksgiving day. They end up taking so much from you in terms of a life outside of the restaurant with friends and family, but it’s so hard to give up a “good” job.”
Monty eventually left his Cleveland Fleming’s position to work at Capital Grille, another fine dining steakhouse. By now, he was a seasoned, experienced, and professional server, excellent at his job and making the money to prove it. But still, something was missing…
Luckily, he found it, even while working the grind of restaurant life: love.
He moved to the Akron area to be with his fiancé, and started working at the Fleming’s down there. They hired him back without a question—he was eminently qualified and a known quantity at the other location, which had shut down after he left. (You hate to see it.)
He was down there in Akron, grinding out a living, working hard hours to start building a home for the children they hoped to have, when the pandemic hit.
The Pandemic: Consequences and Truth
At the same time, something unthinkable happened: Fleming’s shut down and furloughed all its workers.
Monty was unemployed for the first time in years. He wasn’t working long, late nights. He wasn’t scheduled on holidays. He wasn’t scheduled at all.
And that’s when he learned something that thousands of other restaurant workers learned during the pandemic: it’s not worth it.
After years of being treated almost as subhuman by their managers and restaurant owners, tens of thousands of restaurant industry veterans say that they will never go back. And now, there’s a nation-wide reckoning from California to the East Coast, about how we treat restaurant workers, and what we demand of them.
“There’s no way I’m going back,” Monty says, “But I also don’t know that there was any way I would have left, without the pandemic. At the time, I always thought that the money was too good to leave. How else could a guy like me be making that kind of money? But once I actually stepped away, for the first time since I was a kid, I realized that the money isn’t worth missing out on life itself.”
Monty was lucky—his wife had a solid job in manufacturing, with job security and benefits that would allow her to float them while they began building their family. It was Ohio manufacturing that saved the day! (One of the reasons manufacturing is a pillar of my campaign, by the way—it’s all a part of making Ohio #futureproof.)
And it was during this time that they had Clifford Matthew Diemer, the new light of our lives.
If it weren’t for his wife’s solid job, Monty would have no certainty about the future, and no foundation of stability upon which to build a family. But since his wife works in Ohio manufacturing, they know that they have at least one solid household income, while Monty looks to a future career outside of the restaurant industry.
For now, they’re spending their days exhausted and in love with their new baby. Every single day is a new journey with Clifford, the tiny human who’s just beginning to open his eyes to the world.
And Monty loves being there to watch Clifford change, day by day, even though he’s gotten peed on a time or two (or seven 😂).
Monty’s story has a happy ending and a very happy new beginning, but he’s one of the lucky ones. Thousands of restaurant workers across the country had to reckon with unemployment without the support of a partner, and have nothing but hostile working conditions to look forward to. Thousands of restaurant owners are struggling to resume post-pandemic operations, because they can’t find people to work for the wages that they used to.
As I see it, there are 2 things we can learn from Monty’s story:
1) We need to support and grow Ohio manufacturing, for more #futureproof jobs, like the one Monty’s wife has
2) If we want to save the restaurants we all love so much, we need to figure out how to empower restaurant owners to provide good lives for their workers. I LOVE restaurants, and I want these small businesses to be #futureproof too
Restaurant owners are having a very tough time right now. They were always operating on razor thin margins, and workers demanding better compensation and scheduling might be the straw that breaks their back.
I don’t want to see that happen.
People who open restaurants are the lifeblood of America: they’re entrepreneurs who jump into a tough industry, and take big risks, just to provide the kind of hospitality that American restaurants are famous for. We should be proud of the culinary community that we’ve built in our country, and we need to fight for restaurants. We need to figure out how to get people back into restaurant jobs, without asking them to give up their entire lives.
We need to find some balance.
I believe that we can, but only if we try. Like really, really try.
That’s why when I’m talking about the pillars of my campaign, I talk about small business first. I want to empower people in Northeast Ohio to build sustainable, profitable businesses, so we can keep our main streets lively and vivacious.
I don’t want to see any more boarded up windows.
I don’t want to hear any more stories about people having to choose between having dignity and having a livelihood.
I don’t want to hear any more stories about entrepreneurs being unable to build and sustain their businesses.
I want to fight for small entrepreneurs to make big business in Ohio. I want to fight to bring manufacturing and its job security to Ohio. I want Ohio to be a great place to do business, period.
My father, my brother, me. None of us took what you could call traditional career paths, and we all turned out to have happy, successful lives. I want to make sure that every single Ohioan gets a fighting shot at a happy life.
Is that too much to ask?
Well, it depends who you ask.
I say it’s not too much to ask, but career politicians say
“It’s not the right time”
“We have bigger priorities”
But I personally don’t believe there is ANYTHING more important than connecting people to sustainable livelihoods.
I make it my mission to give Ohioans a chance, because I know from experience that they will take that chance and run with it, creating revolutionary businesses, and working hard to contribute to the bigger picture.
THAT is who I am and why I’m running for congress.
I hope you’ll think about investing in a #futureproof Ohio with me. Think about it, and donate what you can. If you can, think about sending $5, $20, $50, or even $100 to the campaign monthly. Monthly donors are our lifeblood. Making a continuing commitment to fighting for Ohio means we can show the establishment that we mean business, and we’re not backing down.
I hope that no matter what, you’ll continue to keep up with me on my journey. I can’t do it without you.
P.S.—I hope you enjoyed A Tale of Two Fathers! As my campaign rolls along, I’m going to continue to share stories about me, my family, and everyday people from Ohio and from around the country. I want you to really understand WHO I’m fighting for and WHY.
I’m fighting for you, if you’ll let me.