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Employees of Death & Co, an Award-Winning Bar, Are Unionizing

The acclaimed East Village cocktail bar has expanded nationally over the years

Death & Co
Employees of the cocktail bar Death & Co are asking management to recognize their union.
Death & Co

At the end of October, employees of the New York location of celebrated cocktail bar Death & Co announced their plans to unionize. It has been a week since the announcement was made, calling upon management to voluntarily recognize the union.

The petition reads: “Over the years, many of us have enthusiastically chosen to join, and stay long-term with, Death & Co for the company that values connection, contagious joy, curiosity professionalism, and excellence...We require a supportive working environment in order to succeed in this goal, collectively we have chosen the path to unionization so that we might build a stronger Death & Co together.” All 17 eligible employees have signed petition cards, according to the union.

Marc Rizzuto, a bartender at Death & Co East Village for the past three years, told Eater that the group is unionizing with Workers United. He said that part of the reason they selected Workers United, was the success the organization has found helping Starbucks employees across the country unionize, along with Barboncino, the Crown Heights pizzeria, whose employees also announced they were unionizing with Workers United earlier this year.

Death & Co first opened in January 2007. In the years since its debut, it has been heaped with awards — Thrillist once called it “NYC’s most influential bar” — inspired by Prohibition-era speakeasies. David Kaplan and restauranteur Ravi DeRossi (a non-operational Death & Co owner) have gone on to build hospitality empires on its back, and a platform for top bar talent in the nation. DeRossi also owns the neighboring Amor y Amargo, on East Sixth Street, as well as several vegan restaurants in the neighborhood.

To date, Death & Co has locations in Los Angeles, Denver, and Washington D.C. The union cited the company’s national expansion as a factor in the decision to unionize.

Kaplan, a co-owner of Gin & Luck, who oversees all Death & Co locations, said, “We are a values-based company which I deeply appreciated they cite in their email. We do our best to create a phenomenal workplace culture, we're always striving to set the new standard.” He plans to wait for a vote amongst employees through the National Labor Relations Board, he said.

“We care about all of our employees and want to make sure there’s workplace democracy, we felt that an election is the most fair process by which this is accomplished.”