Ellen’s Stardust Diner — a Times Square tourist favorite known for its singing servers — may no longer be the safe haven for aspiring singers and actors that it once was, according to the staff. The Times reports that the staff has unionized in the last eight months after new management fired more than 30 employees and implemented new policies that aren’t friendly to the performers who long considered Ellen’s to be a familial place to work as they pursued their acting ambitions. Now, the staff say longtime employees have been let go for unreasonable reasons. "Today I spilled water," one server tells the Times, "and I genuinely thought I was going to get fired."
The newly formed union — dubbed Stardust Family United — wants higher wages for non-tipped employees, protection from "a campaign of arbitrary discipline," and more job security, the Times writes. Many employees leave for stints in shows or things like "American Idol" and historically have been allowed to return — a policy that staff say is ending. But owner Ken Sturm says he was surprised by the complaints and that he plans to address them. He also said the time-off policy hasn’t changed.
Still, people have quit since new management started at the diner in January. "Ellen’s is so important to people like us," says Zak Resnick, who worked there for ten years before quitting this year, "it gives us the fallback plan to do what we moved to the city to do."