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Tucson restaurant workers could form first union of its kind in AZ

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 8:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -As restaurant and retail workers are leaving the industries in droves across the US, a group of local restaurant workers could form the first union of its type for their industry in Arizona.

Prep and Pastry workers are trying to start a union for themselves and the restaurant group, Ares Collective Restaurants.

“For too long we’ve been undervalued and overworked, and we’re not getting the benefits that we deserve, we work really hard,” said Spyncer Wilson, line cook at Prep and Pastry.

The group has a few main requests, like job security, the right for breaks and PTO, affordable health care, holiday pay and time off and no retaliation against employees.

Partner owner, Nathan Ares, said holiday time off is the only thing the restaurant currently does not offer full-time employees. Ares said they offer highly competitive pay and hours when they can, though COVID-19 and a slower summer have been difficult.

“We love our team, and I’ve personally told every single team member no matter which way this goes, nothing will change,” said Ares.

While breaks are not stated in their employee handbook, Ares said most employees do not work more than eight hours and the restaurant ground gives frequent breaks and a free meal to employees every day.

“I think regardless of the federal and state law mandates, you should treat people the way they deserve, and even if you’re a part-time employee, that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve the benefits of a full-time employee,” said Wilson.

The union, UFCW Local 99, said they have presented ownership with the chance to okay a union without a vote, but Ares said it should be up to all the employees to decide. After 30 percent of employees were in favor of petitioning for a union, whether or not the union forms will now likely come down to a vote between all employees. UFCW Local 99 said they will offer ownership another chance to approve a union without a vote.

“We want to do whatever the team wants to do, and that’s hearing both sides of the team, and if and when a vote comes, we want it to be fair,” said Ares.

Other grievances from the workers include a bad work environment and the fear of speaking up, something management categorically denies. Workers hope to lead a way for other workers in the industry to form or join their own union.

An online petition asking for the public’s support of the union has more than 500 signatures, a vote from the employees on whether or not to form a union will likely be in the coming weeks

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