Servers, bartenders and kitchen staff at the queer Brooklyn bar Oddly Enough are seeking to form a union, National Labor Relations Board documents show.
Nine employees filed for an election with the NLRB to form the Brotherhood of Oddly Enough Workers union, indicating that at least one-third of them had signed on to initiate the process. The Bed-Stuy bar, which advertises itself as a “queer space for all,” opened in April and quickly became a buzzing spot in the neighborhood. But a number of posts on queer social media app Lex reportedly claimed the staff weren’t being paid on time within weeks of its initial opening.
Multiple attempts to reach management at the bar were unsuccessful.
Lisha Payne recently graduated from New York University and subsequently joined the Oddly Enough staff as a server two months ago. Payne, who uses they/them pronouns, said their coworkers had said that staff turnover rate has been an issue from the start, along with communication issues with the owners.
In part inspired by the unionizing efforts across the country, Payne decided to help form a union in hopes of addressing issues like fair pay, transparency from management, and workers’ schedules being sent out in a timely manner.
“I also think unionizing can happen on a smaller scale, like more rank-and-file to make your workplace better and your community better,” Payne said.
The staff are set for a vote on October 31st, Payne said.
Ruth Milkman, a sociologist of labor and labor studies at CUNY, said that though it’s not common to see bar staff unionizing, the effort still fits into the larger trend.
“What's been happening over the last year or so is that workers, millennials and Gen Z-ers, most of them college-educated, have gotten the union bug and they're organizing in a lot of different businesses,” Milkman said. “There's not really any systematic evidence on this, but there's been a number of reports that suggest that LGBTQ workers are overrepresented in the ranks of the activists who are doing this. Presumably that's who these folks are, so it just sort of fits the general picture.”
Also notable, Milkman added, is the fact that the employees are forming their own union rather than joining an existing group — similarly to the Amazon workers at the Staten Island warehouse that became the first to unionize in the country earlier this year.
Though forming an independent union doesn’t give workers access to the same resources that joining an existing one does, Milkman said it can give the union legitimacy amongst workers.
“There is some negative P.R. out there, amplified routinely by employers that you're just inviting a third party in,” Milkman said. “You can't really say that if it's just these nine people.”
This story has been updated to include comment from a member of the bar's staff.