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For Workers, Barbenheimer Was Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse’s Alamo

Panera sandwiches are no substitute for a raise.

9:28 AM EDT on August 23, 2023

(UKinUSA / Flickr)

There are lots of reasons workers choose to unionize. Maybe they want more power in a company that never seems to hear their wants or needs in the workplace; maybe they want protection from petty tyrant managers or hazardous work conditions; maybe they want insurance, in the form of pay bumps and severance guarantees, that their lives won't be tanked by a few bad decisions from the C-suite. 

All of those things, surely, were factors that influenced the workers at the Downtown Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse, located on the top floor of that weird mall (no, the other weird mall), who filed a petition to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. But there's also reportedly one hyper-specific incident that opened the floodgates: Barbenheimer, the summer's hottest double feature. 

While audiences were dressing up in pink to go to Barbieland or donning fedoras to go to… America during WWII, I guess?... the sudden crush of customers, plus a void of support from management, reportedly sent the theater's employees straight to customer service hell.

One Downtown Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse concierge told Patch that the Barbenheimer crowds were bigger than the theater's digital systems could handle, and that training new employees during that rush time was "very overwhelming." And according to press releases from the theater, Alamo Drafthouse locations across the country offered a shitload of additional giveaways tied to "Barbie," plus collectables for sale like a matching lunchbox thermos set—all of which surely created more work for already frayed employees.

Imagine trying to train a new cashier, while handing a pink beret and heart-shaped sunglasses out to gaggle after gaggle of keyed-up girlies in sequins and glitter, while serving food and alcohol to the same crowd for a combined five hours of movie time, every time you're at work for like, two straight weeks. And then after it's over, you get thanked with an email from the Alamo CEO, who sends you Panera sandwiches. The call to the United Auto Workers Local 2179 probably wasn't too difficult to make. 

Barbenheimer wasn't the only reason Downtown Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse employees petitioned for a union election, which a UAW organizer told Hyperallergic he hopes will happen around Labor Day. In June, its projectionists filed a separate petition to unionize with the NLRB—then, two days later, the theater eliminated the role of projectionist entirely and replaced it with "technical engineer," a decision management claimed was totally made way before the NLRB filing. Workers also told Hyperallergic that they face issues with scheduling practices, staff shortages, and, most eye-poppingly, mold and fruit fly infestations in the theater's kitchen.

Ew. And of course, solidarity.

And now, some galvanizing links:

  • There's no such thing as coincidence (especially when it comes to City agency tweets).
  • Donny Ubiera, charged with attempted murder, died on Rikers Island Tuesday morning—the eighth in-custody death in the city this year.
  • And the mismatch between a medical examiner's report and a Rikers CO's internal report raises new questions about the death of Curtis Davis, the seventh person to die in custody this year.
  • Experts say a proposed surcharge for trash isn't a silver bullet for the City's waste management issues.
  • The feral cat situation in New York City is truly fucked up.
  • The hits keep coming for the ex-Suffolk County police chief who fucked up the Gilgo Beach Murders investigation.
  • Advocates say giving housing vouchers to migrants could save the City $3 billion annually.
  • The DOT regrets the way the BQE "divided communities" when it was built but also, uh, wants $800 million in federal funds to make it bigger.
  • I couldn't help but wonder what kind of degradation they'll put the girls through in "And Just Like That…" season three.
  • Maybe that kid shouldn't have been playing in the woods.
  • More than 1,000 prisoners who spent a week in the Metropolitan Detention Center "shivering in dark cells with toilets that wouldn’t flush, while access to food, medical care and phone calls were cut off" during a 2019 polar vortex could receive a total of $10 million in settlement money from the federal government.
  • A Bronx tenant council president "directed NYCHA workers to style her hair and rearrange her wigs, remove her trash, pick up and deliver food, carry shopping goods to her apartment and fuss with items in her cabinets, wrote the New York City Housing Authority’s interim vice president and general counsel, David Rohde, in the letter to the woman in May. She also wore a 'revealing pink nightgown the entire time' a NYCHA employee cleaned her apartment," according to NYCHA.
  • If your child has limited mobility, good luck finding an accessible public school in New York City, according to a new report.
  • Eric Adams is using his time in Israel constructively, to get to "the heart and soul of the public safety tools that are available on how to do all the detection of criminal behavior and how to just further enhance what we have in our toolkit" and to shoot very dramatic social assets
  • The NYPD obfuscated some pretty damning body-worn camera footage in a friendly fire incident.
  • And BRB we're applying for an internship at the Adams admin's weird, secret, two-person crypto office.
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