There’s more movement on the labor front as employees of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Downtown Brooklyn location have filed with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize.
They’re seeking affiliation with the United Autoworkers. UAW Local 2179 is the petitioner on behalf of all full-time and regular part-time employees at the popular Brooklyn cinema. About 150 people, or 75% of staffers – the threshold required — supported the petition citing “health and safety concerns, harmful corporate restructuring, chronic staffing issues and a long history of management abuse and bullying.”
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“After years of appeals to management for better support from corporate – for example new or replacement equipment, pay raises, and adequate staffing – the workers are tired of being told that there isn’t room in Alamo’s budget for its most profitable venue,” organizers said in a statement.
The bargaining unit consists of more than 190 employees including wait staff, line cooks, bartenders, box office, custodians and dishwashers. The chain is known for its in-seat dining.
The July opening of juggernauts Barbie and Oppenheimer with the big crowds and numerous meals that entailed was a tipping point in garnering support, said Jordan Baruch, a concierge at the Brooklyn theater. The statement today noted an Alamo Drafthouse post about serving 304,000 guests over Barbenheimer weekend (July 20-23) across its 39 locations. Baruch said major issues are insufficient staffing given the work load, and how the theater assigns and manages shifts.
Alamo Drafthouse declined to comment.
While it may seem odd for theater employees to seek affiliation with the UAW, Will Bobrowski, second vice president of Local 2179, told Deadline the union and his local represent seven AMC theaters in New York City, as well as museums, educational enterprises and casino dealers upstate, among others.
If the two sides can’t agree on how to move forward, they move to a hearing, likely the second week of September. Despite the large number of employees who signed cards to unionize this week, it’s not by any means guaranteed. Under U.S. labor law, a company can agree to let the union exist, or can force the issue to a vote, spending intervening time interfacing with employees. Alamo today called full staff meeting in Brooklyn tomorrow to discuss a planned expansion plan at the location.
The petition, filed Monday, doesn’t cover supervisors or technical engineers/projectionists. Bobrowski said that’s because IATSE is still in litigation with Alamo over its elimination of projectionist positions in Brooklyn theater in June, replacing that role with another called technical engineer. Alamo said then the shift was already in the works.
Projectionists at the site had filed a petition with the NLRB to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 306 earlier this summer. Alamo notified the staff a few days later that it was abolishing the position. According to a story in 1010WINS, Alamo said then that the decision to scrap projectionists was response to changes in the industry. It eliminated the position at all its locations.
“Over the past several months, the Presentation Team has conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the projectionist role, taking into account the evolving nature of the industry, the advancements in technology, and the continued success of our teammates. As a result of this evaluation, we have decided to introduce a new career path for Projectionists as Technical Engineers…This transition, announced prior to the NLRB petition, will come with an increased compensation package and additional responsibilities that were not previously associated with the role,” a spokesperson told the NYC news radio station then.
Workers at Alamo Drafthouse’s flagship Austin theater voted to unionize in February of 2022.
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