- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Tumblr
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
Workers at Alamo Drafthouse’s flagship Austin location have announced a union, citing their interest in changes to wages and benefits and more clarity around COVID-19 health policies.
The group, which is calling themselves Drafthouse United, claimed on Monday that they have “majority support” among workers at the location. (The Hollywood Reporter asked one member, hourly supervisor Duncan Lott, how many members the group has and he declined to give a number for privacy reasons for his co-workers, but reiterated that it has a “pretty solid majority.”) The group is seeking to represent everyone who works at the venue level, excluding salaried managers, and some workers who have gone public with their support include a server, a bartender, a runner and a supervisor. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union, which organizes workers across industries with its “One Big Union” philosophy and has nearly 9,000 members with recent contracts ratified for workers at Moe’s Books in Berkeley and Pacific Northwest food chain Burgerville, is backing the organizing.
Lott says the group went public with their organizing drive after sending some proposed solutions to worker complaints in early February and being told by a manager that individuals could bring up their concerns in future all-staff meetings. The group is now asking for voluntary recognition from management. THR has reached out to Alamo Drafthouse for comment.
In lengthy statements provided by two employees on the Drafthouse United website that explain why they chose to unionize, a server and Lott describe how, after COVID-19 initially shut down the South Lamar neighborhood location for several months, the theater initially took health and safety steps like instituting “buffer” seating and online ordering, until those practices allegedly were retired. The employees claim there are now widespread feelings of burnout and significant worker turnover, and also express frustration that Drafthouse workers are allegedly paid a higher hourly wage in other states due to varying state laws. “I have decided to unionize because I love the Alamo Drafthouse, and it deserves to be a place that’s worth working for. But it stopped being a place that’s worth working for when it stopped Giving a Shit about its employees and guests,” Lott writes in his statement.
With the union, the workers are hoping to make improvements to wages and benefits including paid sick leave, get more clarity on COVID-19 policies and reach “a resolution to long-standing building maintenance requests,” according to the IWW.
In March 2021, Alamo Drafthouse, known for its cinephile-friendly programming, food and drinks service in theaters, and strict no-texting policy during screenings, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid the pandemic and its challenge to movie theaters’ business; as part of that agreement it underwent a restructuring that spun off some assets to Altamont Capital and Fortress Investment Group affiliates. However, just a few months later, THR reported the chain was set to open four new locations in Manhattan; Washington, D.C.; Arlington, Virginia; and St. Louis, with a Staten Island location still in development. Earlier this month, the company announced additional Chicago; Birmingham, Alabama; Glendale, Colorado; and Grand Prairie, Texas, locations after 2021 saw box office successes for its theaters with films like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Licorice Pizza, The French Dispatch and The Green Knight.
“Unions play a pivotal role in maintaining the safety and quality of film production across the industry’s supply chain, stopping short of the neighborhood movie theater,” the IWW said in its press release about the union. “The time to extend basic union protections and fair compensation to workers at the front lines of the industry is now.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day