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A Report From the Rank and File: Organizing the Service Industry

  • Verso Books 20 Jay Street Brooklyn, NY, 11201 United States (map)

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Employing over 11 million workers, food service is the heart of the low-wage service industry in the United States. Marked by poverty wages, inconsistent scheduling, lack of benefits, sexual harassment, and racism, it is a primary front in the class war. Union density in the food service sector is only 1.8%, far below the already-abysmal private sector average of 6.5%. [1] But workers are fighting back.

At this event, come hear reports from rank-and-file activists innovating new forms of worker organization on the front lines of the class struggle in food service. We will be joined by activists from:

The Burgerville Workers Union, an IWW campaign that has broken new ground in organizing fast food in Portland, OR. The BVWU has won multiple NLRB representation elections in micro-units at a 42-location fast food franchise, integrating collective bargaining practices into a long-term direct action campaign.

Baristas from Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca, NY who formed a union affiliated with Workers United. They have won won the first union contract covering workers directly employed by a coffee shop in the United States. Read more:

Kava Workers United Local 138, a crew of rebel workers who demanded union recognition at a Brooklyn, NY kava joint, went on strike, got fired, launched a successful community boycott through intensive picketing, and are now running their own pop-up co-op kava bar.

Stardust Family United, an IWW campaign in New York City that beat back over 30 anti-union firings, winning reinstatement through a campaign integrating ULPs and direct action, and carrying on the fight through shopfloor direct action once the workers were reinstated. Read more:

The Hot & Crusty Campaign, an example of independent organizing to fight for better terms and conditions of employment. The mostly immigrant workers at Hot & Crusty won a historic contract through 11 months of intense organizing and almost two months on the picket line. The workers organized outside the structures of traditional labor unions and were backed by a variety of community organizations, including Laundry Workers Center. The Hot & Crusty Workers Association has been a source of inspiration for other fast food campaigns. Read more:

[1] Source:

Sponsored by Strikecorps, the NYC IWW, and NYC DSA Service Industry Working Group.