New York board game cafe chain Hex & Company accused of union busting as staff seek ‘living wage’

New York City board game cafe chain Hex & Company has been accused by workers of union busting amid efforts by staff to officially organise in pursuit of a “living wage”.

Hex & Co, which runs the borough’s largest board game cafe, launched in 2017, and has since expanded to three locations by picking up funding through a pair of Kickstarter campaigns.

The company is a joint venture between Greg May, the creator of Manhattan’s first board game cafe, Uncommons, and Jon Freeman, the owner of board game store and cafe the Brooklyn Strategist.

Staff say they approached the owners earlier this year with a petition to voluntarily acknowledge their workers’ union, which is demanding a living wage starting at $22.50 per hour, a transparent path to promotions, and adequate staffing to meet the workload.

That living wage is in line with the value given for Manhattan by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator, which offers a figure of $22.51 per hour for a single adult with no children.

Barista staff at Hex & Company currently earn $12.50 per hour plus tips, the union organisers say, while professional DMs for roleplaying games are paid $17 per hour and staff working with children in the afterschool program $16 to 18 per hour, with a few exceptions making $19 per hour.

The union organisers say May and Freeman have refused to voluntarily acknowledge their workers’ union, which is set to include more than 70 employees, and have instead filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – something required by law following a recent ruling against Cemex Construction Materials Pacific.

But the organisers say Hex & Co’s owners are “holding captive audience meetings and working to remove members from the proposed Hex & Co bargaining unit, including managers of the afterschool program”.

BoardGameWire has attempted to contact Greg May for comment on the situation, but is yet to receive a response.

Unionisation efforts by Hex and Co workers are being led in collaboration with Workers United NY/NJ, a joint board of Workers United, the union representative of Starbucks Workers United, which has unionized 360 Starbucks across the country to date, including thirteen union locations in downstate New York.

Hex & Co store manager Jace Alejo said, “Hex & Co is honestly the most enjoyable job that I’ve had in a while; it just sucks that the enjoyment has to come at the expense of being able to afford to live in this city.

“We’ve had coworkers and friends who have had to leave not only this job, but also New York, because they just couldn’t afford to stay.

“All we are asking for is to be recognized and properly supported by this company that we already give so much to.”


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