Third New York board game cafe in a month wins fight to establish union

Workers at New York City board game cafe The Brooklyn Strategist have scored a landslide election victory to establish a union – the third NYC game store to do so within the last month.

Staff at the cafe attempted to unionise on November 1 by presenting a petition to owner Jon Freeman, citing their concerns with unfair compensation, lack of job security, and ineffective grievance procedures as their primary motivations for organizing.

Freeman refused to recognise the petition, which was signed by more than 75% of the store’s workers, leading staff to instead file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). That vote was won by a landslide 17 votes to 1 yesterday.

The election success means The Brooklyn Strategist has become the final shop in the family of gaming stores owned by Jon Freeman and Greg May to officially unionise.

Workers at New York City board game cafe chain Hex & Company,  a joint venture between Freeman and Greg May, the creator of Manhattan’s first board game cafe, Uncommons, won their own fight to unionise after securing a similar landslide election victory on November 14.

Staff at the Uncommons followed suit with a union election win on December 6th. 

The Brooklyn Strategist staff member Christine Carmack said she was “eager for a brighter and better Brooklyn Strategist, and to work with management to ensure it”, while fellow worker Jenn Taylor added, “I am excited to negotiate a workplace that treats us with respect.”

BoardGameWire reported in October that Hex & Company workers had accused its owners of union busting amid efforts by staff to officially organise in pursuit of a “living wage”.

Staff approached May and Freeman 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 were earning $12.50 per hour plus tips, the union organisers said at the time, while professional DMs for roleplaying games were 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.

Last year workers at board game cafe chain Mox Boarding House unionised, as did staff at tabletop games retailer Noble Knight Games.


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