Stardust Diner Reaches Settlement with Union
Singing staff wins major victory against new management
The singing servers at one of New York City’s most popular tourist destinations, Ellen’s Stardust Diner, won a huge labor victory this week. A year after the wait staff unionized with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and then were fired, the union representing the employees has announced that it has reached a settlement with the diner’s owners.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a 1950’s themed diner that opened in1987. It has historically been known as a place where Broadway actors and singers who are in-between gigs will work as wait staff. They often sing show tunes and different songs while serving meals. This has caused it to become a very popular tourist attraction for people hoping to see the next big star.
The trouble with the diner started last year, when owner Ken Strum hired new management to “streamline” the restaurant’s business. In this case, it meant firing 31 employees for small offenses. The remaining staff decided to organize and form the Stardust Family United. The newly formed union was bargaining for higher wages for non-tipped employees, protection from “a campaign of arbitrary discipline”, and more job security. The Stardust Diner is famous for allowing their employees to have flexible schedules, giving them time for American Idol auditions or roles in Broadway shows like Jersey Boys and Wicked, and then allowing them to come back to work afterward. The new management was threatening to take that policy away.
Sturm also claimed that nearly 60 employees have stolen close to $400 million over their years of working at the restaurant. An attorney for the employees said that the lawsuit was just management’s way of scaring the staff who still worked at the 1950’s themed restaurant.
But this week, Stardust Family United and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reached an agreement with the owners. Sturm offered the 31 fired employees their jobs back with thirteen of those servers deciding to return. The diner also paid staffers back pay and agreed to mail notices to all staff outlining that the restaurant could not threaten employees or discourage them from union activity.