WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — More and more workers in D.C. have been looking to unionize in recent weeks, and labor organizers have said that there’s been major pushback from employers.
Even after a union is formed, a contract needs to be negotiated.
Workers at five Union Kitchen locations across D.C. and Virginia are considering a boycott. They formed a union last June, but still haven’t gotten a contract.
“Union busting is disgusting,” chanted workers on Thursday.
From big workplaces, like George Washington University Hospital, to small ones, like Moon Rabbit restaurant at the Wharf, workers in D.C. are unionizing.
“I think what we’re seeing happening now is that unions are actually stepping up to organize smaller workplaces that weren’t usually targets,” said Dyana Forester, president of the Metro Washington Labor Council.
That’s the case with Union Kitchen, where workers unionized last June with United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 Union, but are threatening a boycott.
“We really didn’t want to be here but we’re here unfortunately because the company has given us no other choice,” said worker Eric Rosenthal.
According to union representatives, the company didn’t show good faith until just before Thursday’s press conference. They agreed to hold off on a boycott for two weeks.
“They have fired or cut hours or disciplined or all of the above every single worker at the company who has become a public supporter of the union,” Rosenthal said.
The National Labor Relations Board did file 26 violations of federal law against Union Kitchen and settled with the company on all the charges. In February, Union Kitchen settled with UFCW Local 400, agreeing to pay almost $25,000 in backpay to improperly fired workers.
DC News Now reached out several times to Union Kitchen. They replied saying that they did not want to talk on the record about the case or where they are in negotiations.
Forester said in many cases, “It’s a power struggle, right? I mean, the boss wants to have the power and just the idea that you have to engage with the workers on the say in what their rights are in the workplace is a challenge for them.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 200,000 new union jobs were added last year — but on the other hand in that same period, overall union membership nationally fell by two-tenths of a percent.