The pandemic and calls for equity have encouraged many workers at small restaurants to organize unions
Organizing a union in the food service industry has long been considered an uphill battle. Staff turnover is high; relationships between the unequally compensated front- and back-of-house can be fraught; and the close ties between management and employees at smaller restaurants make it difficult to shake things up. But as The New York Times’ Priya Krishna reports, the pandemic and ongoing discourse over racial equity have injected new life into the labor movement, and organizing efforts are popping up everywhere, from coffee shops to bakeries to French bistros. Last August, at Tattersall Distillery in Minneapolis, employees demanding personal protective equipment, overtime pay, and antiracism training successfully organized a union with Unite Here Local 17 and are currently in the middle of negotiating a contract. But even in instances where union drives fail, as was the case at Cork & Fork in central Pennsylvania, the effort itself can sometimes spark changes demanded. “They know we will just keep trying to unionize if things don’t change,” said Tiffany Ramsey, a Cork & Fork server.