Introducing ‘Shift Change’: A NEW Restaurant Worker’s Organizing Drive in the DC Area!

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WHAT IS SHIFT CHANGE? 

Shift Change is a collective of restaurant workers in the Washington DC area seeking to bring real change to our respective workplaces and the broader industry as a whole through direct workplace democracy. 

In 2018, there were 2,457 eating and drinking establishments within the District of Columbia, with an estimated $4.4 billion in sales, and in 2019, a total of 65,200 food industry jobs. Frankly, the iconic DC neighborhoods would be nothing without their restaurants, cafes, and bars, and we as workers are the ones who, through our labor, make all of this possible. However, even with this invaluable contribution to local culture and the economy, we still suffer from rampant wage theft, abusive labor practices, lack of benefits, job insecurity regarding continued employment & guaranteed hours, stressful and repetitive shifts, sexual harassment, verbal and physical abuse from guests and management… the lists goes on. We know this. We live this. Shift Change hopes to win short term gains for workers like providing protection from retaliation if forced to call out sick, guarantee of hours, an economic reopening that centers the welfare of the worker and not the boss’s profit margins, etc. as well as more long term goals like creating a network of solidarity in the restaurant community and closing the many divisions between front and back of house. 

So what is a union anyways? A union is simply two or more workers coming together to improve their workplace conditions. Shift Change is powered BY the workers and organized for ALL workers, through a solidarity unionism model; we have no interest with hired representation or bargaining power concentrated in a third-party. We deal collectively and directly with our bosses to raise grievances and work towards improvements. Through Shift Change, every worker will gain access to financial and legal support, organizing training, and the assistance of an organization that has been fighting for 100+ years for working people’s rights. Each restaurant in Shift Change would organize independently and exert “full control over their unique policies, goals, and tactics with support from the rest of Shift Change. Think of Shift Change almost as a congress of restaurant workers in (DC). Each restaurant will have a representative at meetings.” 

As restaurant workers, we know our industry. We live it, we commute, we worry about sick days, our work schedules. We know this industry. Inside and out, we know exactly what we as workers need in order to create and sustain a workplace colored by fairness, mutual respect, dignity, safety, satisfaction, a certain level of freedom, and everything else we are deserving of as service workers. Therefore WE are the ones most qualified to exert the most control and influence over our workplace conditions… not our bosses or managers. Join us! 

 WHO ARE WE?

Shift Change is made up of restaurant workers in Washington DC and no one else –only restaurant industry workers can join this union! Shift Change is a member project of the Industrial Workers of the World, a radically democratic, international union for all workers in every industry! The IWW follows the strategy of the Industrial Union and has been fighting for worker’s rights since 1905!

A brief intro to 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 Washington DC who are all organized under the same union. WE organize by industry rather than by trade. This means that the restaurateurs of Washington DC will not be able to hire anyone in DC without their new hire possibly being a union member, no matter the worker’s position in the restaurant. From the dish pit to the service bar, all restaurant workers would be acting together for collective change! -Shift Change RVA

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, Republicans, 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 headquarters.

HOW TO JOIN

  1. Apply to join Shift Change by completing this fillable form here or sending an email to shiftchangedc@protonmail.com
  1. Shift Change provides you with organizer training, materials, and other support
  1. Begin organizing an individual union in your workplace with material and strategic support from Shift Change
  1. Talk to your friends that may work at other restaurants to spread the movement.
  1. Once we reach a critical mass of restaurant workers and individual union campaigns we will begin to push harder for major industry-wide reforms. 

We hope to hear from you soon!

You can also reach out to Shift Change on social media!