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February 7

NYC: Ellen’s Stardust Diner IWW Staff Fight Mass Firings and Wage Theft

This past week, servers at the famed Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Midtown were attacked again for organizing a union with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Owners fired another 15 long-term employees, bringing the total number of singing servers fired to 31. Most employees received their notice via e-mail, some while working their shift.

James Cargill, a server of more than 8 years, was one of these employees. “I found out that I was fired during my shift, through a text message from another employee who had been fired. As of January, my new family will be uninsured, and we have a 5-month-old son. As somebody who helped build the place to the popularity is has now, It’s a slap in the face.” The first mass firing occurred in September, a week after employees unionized, forming Stardust Family United (SFU). This mass firing comes on the heels of continued union organizing, including many successful actions in the workplace.

For example, over the holidays, management instituted new policies restricting song choices and forcing staff to learn and rehearse new material on their own time without providing compensation. In response, SFU delivered a letter to management stating that servers would not learn the material without proper rehearsal time and pay. Management conceded and told employees they would not be disciplined for this action.

The lead organizer of this action was terminated last week.

Owners Ellen and Ken Sturm were also recently served with a class-action lawsuit targeting rampant wage theft practices in the restaurant. Over 50 employees have signed onto the suit so far, which addresses the manipulation of time cards to avoid paying overtime, illegal “tip out” requirements, and unlawfully withholding gratuities collected from large parties.

Ken Sturm, who has compared himself to a “rape victim accused of wearing a short skirt,” has been calling employees into his office, trying to coerce statements by offering “amnesty” in exchange for false testimony to impugn terminated employees, and threatening termination and arrest. Employees and their families have been harassed and threatened in anonymous text messages, and by strangers visiting them at home.

Stardust Family United is calling for a boycott of Ellen’s Stardust Diner until Ken Sturm re-hires the 31 servers terminated for organizing, and speaks to the staff about their concerns. You can join the movement next Saturday, January 28th: A large-scale, family-friendly musical protest is scheduled from 4:30-7:30. Members and supporters of Stardust Family United will be outside singing songs and sharing information about their struggle for fairness.

The union continues to receive an outpouring of support. SFU has been endorsed by George Miranda, president of Joint council 16 of the Teamsters, the Actor’s Equity Association, the Associated Musicians of Greater New York (Local 802 AFM), and the Office and Professional Employees International Union (Local 153), among others.

Show your support of a safe and healthy work environment for all employees by liking SFU on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tagging memories, pictures and words of encouragement with both @ellensstardustdiner and @stardustfamilyunited with hashtags #wearestardust and #stardustfamilyunited.

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Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

The IWW is a member-run union for all workers, a union dedicated to organizing on the job, in our industries and in our communities. IWW members are organizing to win better conditions today and build a world with economic democracy tomorrow. We want our workplaces run for the benefit of workers and communities rather than for a handful of bosses and executives.

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