Another New York board game cafe refuses to recognise workers’ union

New York board game cafe the Brooklyn Strategist has refused to recognise a workers’ union despite more than 75% of staff signing a petition to unionise.

The move comes just a few weeks after fellow New York City board game cafe chain Hex & Company was accused by workers of union busting amid efforts by staff to officially organise in pursuit of a “living wage”.

A statement from Workers United NY/NJ said when Brooklyn Strategist owner Jon Freeman was confronted with the petition he “immediately refused to recognize the union despite clear majority support”. The union will now file for an election, it added.

Freeman is also the co-owner of Hex & Company alongside Greg May, the creator of Manhattan’s first board game cafe, Uncommons.

The Brooklyn Strategist bargaining unit includes about 25 employees, who cite their concerns with unfair compensation, lack of job security, and ineffective grievance procedures as their primary motivations for organising.

The petition presented by Brooklyn Strategist workers said, “Gaming is, at its core, about collaboration and competition.

“We are asking for voluntary recognition so that we may, together, collaborate to address the issues your employees face and ask you to offer a competitive wage in the fields the business operates in.

“The motto of the Brooklyn Strategist is ‘Up Your Game’ – all we are asking is that you hold true to that motto by upping your game and doing better by the people who work so hard to make your business profitable.”

Unionisation efforts by both the Brooklyn Strategist and 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.

BoardGameWire reported last month that Hex & Company staff 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 the Hex & Co 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.

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