Richmond restaurants have a bad boss problem…
The Richmond restaurant industry has grown at twice the rate of the population over the last few years. Over 40 new restaurants have been opened in the city in 2019 alone. Many of these places are owned by the same small group of owners. These figures alone make it clear that the restaurant owners of Richmond are more interested in expanding their businesses than paying their employees a fair wage. These same bosses demand we have full time availability for part-time hours, scheduling us too few hours to make rent on one job, and don’t tell us the schedule until a few days before the week starts so we can’t really get a second job.
These same bosses threaten to fire us when we’re too sick to work or when we are unable to make it in on time due to an emergency. They demand a doctor’s note that we can’t afford to get because they don’t offer health care.
The restaurant workers of Richmond have had enough – it’s time for some change.
So what is “Shift Change”?
Shift Change is an Industrial Union for all the restaurant workers of Richmond.
An industrial union functions differently than an individual workplace union. The single workplace union model is what most unions use and is great in many cases! The restaurant industry however is very different and notoriously difficult to organize. In fact, many large mainstream unions regard restaurant workers as ‘unorganizable’ – the IWW rejects this position entirely. Part of the reason for this is that restaurant owners often find it easier to fire people rather than pay them well or treat them with respect!
Enter the Industrial Union strategy – this method of building worker’s power allows for workers to organize silently without the bosses knowing who is in the union. Our aim is to build a critical mass of restaurant workers in Richmond who are all organized under the same union. This means that the restauranteurs of Richmond will not be able to hire anyone in Richmond without their newhire possibly bringing a union member. The more likely this becomes, the more restaurant workers will have the ability to change their conditions at work!
Restaurant workers are entirely responsible for building and sustaining this massive thriving industry in Richmond and our short-term goals are centered around using the industrial union model to put the power back in the hands of workers. In the meantime, we will be building individual workplace unions in Richmond that will be part of Shift Change. This allows us to not only begin helping workers improve their conditions immediately, but also begins the process of building a network of solidarity among the restaurant workers in Richmond, regardless of where they work!
Who is building Shift Change?
Shift Change is made up of restaurant workers in Richmond and no one else –only restaurant industry workers can join this union! Shift Change is a member union of the Industrial Workers of the World, an international union for all workers in every industry! The IWW originated the strategy of the Industrial Union and has been fighting for worker’s rights since 1905!
The IWW was the first union in the US to put white workers and workers of color as well as male and female workers in the same union – before this time all unions were heavily segregated, with most barring entry to anyone who was not a white male. More recently the IWW has made history again by establishing the first federally recognized fast-food workers union in US history.
Further, Shift Change and the IWW are both apolitical organizations – we don’t make deals with or give money to the Democrats, Re-publicans, or any other political party. We don’t endorse candidates and we don’t make donations to them. All organizers in Shift Change and the IWW on the whole are volunteers except for a few full-time staffers who work at HQ.
So what happens if I join?
If you join us in this fight, you will be a member of Shift Change, as well as your workplace union. Your workplace union would be a member-union of Shift Change. If you’ve never been in a union before that’s fine! We will train you to organize a union at your workplace with your co-workers on your own terms. The beauty of these trainings is that they apply to every job you will ever have and you will carry these new skills with you everywhere!
All member-unions are functionally independent from Shift Change and largely have full control over their own policies, goals, and tactics with support from the rest of Shift Change. Think of Shift Change as like a congress of the restaurant workers in Richmond. Each restaurant will have a representative at meetings.
Here is a simplified roadmap of how Shift Change can allow us to go from workers struggling individually to a powerful movement that achieves real results:
1. Apply to join Shift Change by filling out this secure form or sending an email to shiftchangeRVA@gmail.com
2. Shift Change provides you with organizer training, materials, and other support.
3. Begin organizing an individual union in your workplace with material and strategic support from Shift Change.
4. Talk to your friends that may work at other restaurants to spread the movement!
5. Once we reach a critical mass of restaurant workers and individual union campaigns we will begin to push hard for major industry-wide reforms.
We hope to hear from you soon!