By Gus Saltonstall
A unionization effort recently kicked off at a board game cafe on West 113th Street and Broadway.
Employees at the Hex & Co. cafe at 2911 Broadway are joining with employees at two other locations in Manhattan to demand volunteer recognition from management of their union Hex Workers United.
“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,” Jace Alejo, a worker at Hex & Co., said. “All we are asking for is to be recognized and properly supported by this company that we already give so much to.”
The Hex & Co. at West 113th Street and Broadway, which is the company’s flagship location and a popular hangout for Columbia University students, offers a variety of board games, food, coffee, beer on tap, and special events.
The bargaining group will be roughly 75 employees including the baristas, retail workers, afterschool program workers and “dungeon masters” (who run the games). The demands include a wage starting at $22.50 an hour, a transparent path to promotions, and adequate staffing.
Hex & Co. management did not immediately respond to the West Side Rag’s request for comment, but workers say that management has so far refused to voluntarily recognize the union and have instead filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board.
While Hex & Co. workers have identified themselves as a union, the status does not become official on a federal level until an election with the National Labor Relations Board takes place that results in a majority of all employees voting in favor.
There are instances, though, when management of a company voluntarily recognizes the union before this vote takes place.
The majority of Hex & Co. employees have already publicly expressed their support for the union, and leaders of the effort expect the vote to go through easily.
In response to management’s stance, the group of workers launched a public petition for supporters from the community to sign, and are also tabling outside of the store for the “support of the gaming community” in demanding that ownership voluntarily recognize their union.
“As a community, we are watching, and your actions have done nothing but raise deep concerns,” the group of workers said in a statement. “Why would ownership delay in this way, refusing to recognize workers’ good faith efforts to work with ownership to improve their workplace?”
The petition has been signed 1,041 times as of Tuesday morning, and has a goal of 1,600 signatures.
“For years, however, Hex & Co. staff has had to deal with low wages, poor staffing, and a demoralizing lack of upward mobility,” the petition reads.
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