News & Commentary

August 29, 2016

Hannah Belitz

Hannah Belitz is a student at Harvard Law School.

Rising tensions between employees and management at a popular Manhattan diner, Ellen’s Stardust Diner, have led restaurant workers to secretly organize and form a union. According to the New York Times, the diner used to be a “utopia” for actors and performers pursuing their dreams in New York City, but changes in management have led to rising dissatisfaction amongst the restaurant employees.  According to the workers, the new management has fired over 30 employees and instituted new policies that they say threaten their acting careers and livelihoods.  Their newly-formed union is seeking a number of changes, including increased wages for non-tipped employees, better job security, and protection from what they describe as arbitrary discipline.  Most of all, however, the workers want to preserve their “performer’s utopia,” a place “where artists could easily pursue big city dreams and still pay the rent.”

The New York Times also reports on coal country’s decline, and Hillary Clinton’s promise to help by investing $30 billion over 10 years to revitalize the region.  The plan is informed by the lessons of the tobacco programs.  As was the case with those programs, the plan centers not on saving the old economy, but rather on creating a new one.  The money, for example, will be invested in infrastructure and technology, and tax incentives will be offered to new companies to relocate in the region.  Residents, however, are skeptical, and some economists note that they have good reason to be: the tobacco rescue was based on a 1998 settlement that required tobacco companies to pay over $200 billion over 25 years to those hurt by tobacco.  No similar settlement exists here.

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