Restaurant workers at Lodi, a Rockefeller Center restaurant by acclaimed restaurateur Ignacio Mattos, are forming a union. A representative for the Restaurant Workers Union, (RWU-STR) Local 1, stated that they would be representing the staff of Lodi, and that two-thirds of workers — a mix of front and back of house — have already signed union cards. A spokesperson for Mattos and Mattos Hospitality (which runs restaurants like Estela, Cafe Altro Paradiso, and Corner Bar; formerly known as Matter House) declined to comment.
The petition document shared with Eater states the workers who signed, feel “they have no voice” on working conditions and money coming into the restaurant.
Wages were top of mind in the list of demands: “A high wage is particularly important for non-tipped workers at Lodi. Some of us make as little as $18 an hour, which is completely inadequate for living in New York City. For their part, tipped workers see wages plummet when sales are slow, and paid time off is $15 an hour,” the document states.
Workers are also asking for cost-of-living adjustments in pace with inflation, wage transparency for tipped workers (particularly for higher-paying buyout events), and better worker safety initiatives. Other demands include more consistent and advance notice for scheduling, adequate staffing replacements, and training. The document also shared that some workers of Lodi workers have to purchase “many of the tools we need to do our jobs, from knives to wine keys” and feel that some of the tools that the restaurant does provide “are unsafe or inadequate.”
The workers of the union have also asked for “democratic grievance and disciplinary procedures” and “just cause” termination (currently in New York, restaurant workers are considered at-will employees). The full list of demands is on Twitter.
When Lodi opened at Rockefeller Center in 2021, it was the first in a major wave of restaurant openings at the property — a larger attempt at making Rockefeller Center cool.
The Lodi union cited the backing of Tishman Speyer, the real estate group behind the Rockefeller Center overhaul, as one of the reasons that they choose to file to unionize.
“We who labor together every day have no voice when it comes to our working conditions and the share of wealth we produce. The fruits of our joint labor are ultimately at the disposal of a handful of ultra-wealthy speculators and rent-collectors, including direct investors, interest-collecting bankers, and Tishman Speyer...” the document states. Tishman Speyer declined to comment.
The Mattos Hospitality restaurant group has until January 27 to respond and voluntarily recognize the Lodi union, or the union will proceed with seeking a “democratic election run by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)” per a document supplied to Eater. At the moment, Lodi appears to be the only restaurant attempting to unionize from the Mattos Hospitality restaurant group.
Restaurant unions have gained momentum in New York City, as they are among the lowest wages in the workforce. Yet so far in New York City, it’s more often among chains such as Starbucks rather than a standalone restaurant or one under an umbrella of a hospitality group.
This is a developing story.