Tuscon Prep & Pastry workers strike twice against unfair labor practices

The author is a Prep & Pastry Organizing Committee member

Workers at Prep & Pastry on Campbell in Tucson, Ariz., continue their fight to be recognized as union members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99. The Prep & Pastry workers have escalated their struggle, holding two one-day unfair labor practice strikes on Feb. 13 and 20 against the company for union busting and refusal to meet their demands for a safe, equitable work environment where workers are respected.

The National Labor Relations Board held mail-in elections for union recognition in September 2021 which resulted in a 12 to 7 vote against unionizing the restaurant. The workers filed numerous unfair labor practice charges against the company for union-busting thereafter, seeking an order for a re-election or an overturn of the results in favor of union representation. The union campaign has nurtured worker power within the restaurant and they continue to build the Prep & Pastry Organizing Committee, which is organizing their workplace and holding management accountable for malpractice while awaiting a decision from the court.

Anti-racism petition demands go unheard

After the union election, the Prep & Pastry owner and management continued to union bust by targeting Prep & Pastry Organizing Committee members for standing up against discrimination in the workplace.

In November, a member of management made derogatory comments towards Spanish-speaking kitchen workers. Several complaints were made to management regarding the incident, asking for the manager who made the comments to be held accountable. Management failed to address the incident, and on Jan. 4, organizing committee members presented a petition signed by thirteen kitchen workers to management and owner Nathan Ares, demanding management receive anti-racism training to better address any instances of discrimination in the future.

Management ignored the petition and retaliated against workers by surveilling and issuing one worker a write up for a minor sanitation infraction that had happened weeks prior. Additionally, management attempted to enforce a bogus dress code that prohibited employees from wearing union affiliated clothing.

The hostile environment created by management forced workers to exercise their right to withhold their labor.

Workers strike against Prep & Pastry’s unfair labor practices

On Feb. 13, six kitchen workers staged a one-day ULP strike that forced the restaurant to close its doors on one of the busiest Sundays of the year. The strike was supported by UFCW 99, members of the Pima Area Labor Federation, the National Writers Union and community members who supported workers either in person or as they drove in and out of the restaurant’s parking lot, stopping to ask questions, leaving food and water, and talking about the strike and worker’s efforts to unionize. The strike lasted from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Throughout the strike day, the Prep & Pastry management failed to speak with the workers. Instead, management intimidated the lawful strikers by calling the police, who demanded strikers move off of company property. 

The week after striking, committee members saw intimidation and disciplinary action from management in the form of a hostile work environment, verbal warnings, and a reduction of hours. 

On Feb. 20, four kitchen workers walked out during service hours and staged another one-day ULP strike on the grounds of management’s continued intimidation. The strike was supported by UFCW 99, the National Writers Union and community members who stood beside strikers and brought water and food. The strike created dialogue between community members and workers, and yet again, management failed to speak with workers. Prep & Pastry owner Nathan Ares was seen driving by and waving at striking workers, but never spoke with them directly.

Standing together for worker power

“Organizing for union recognition has changed my experience working for Prep & Pastry by revealing to me the lengths that a company will go to make sure their employees’ voices aren’t heard. They won’t stop until you’re too afraid or too frustrated to continue,” said Prep & Pastry Organizing Committee member Spyncer Wilson. Despite management and ownership’s attempts to crush union organizing in the restaurant, workers stay active in seeking justice and building a more fair and equitable workplace. “It’s shown me that we need to stick together because nobody can fight that monster alone.”

Going on strike was a last-ditch effort for Prep & Pastry workers to pressure the company to respect worker’s demands for job security, holiday pay, paid time off, hazard pay, a progressive discipline process, and holding management accountable to their unfair labor practices.

“We went on strike to show our employer and coworkers that the company doesn’t have all the power,” said Wilson. “When we stand together against a company, in this case that is perpetuating racism, we show them that we won’t back down when they try to silence us. We are showing every worker in town that you don’t have to accept the disrespect that is rampant in the restaurant industry. You can stand together and demand change.”

To support the Prep & Pastry worker’s union struggle, sign and share their petition and follow them on Instagram to stay up to date with their campaign.

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