SAN FRANCISCO — Alamo Drafthouse workers announced on October 31 that they’re unionizing due to multiple sexual harassment and assault incidents. The statements follow months of silence from management. Employees tabled outside of the theater in Halloween costumes with signs reading “Dignity and Safety,” “Support Something Spook-tacular,” and “Witches Have Covens, We Have a Union.” Dozens showed up in solidarity — including theater patrons — to the demonstration that stretched into the evening.
Workers are partnering with the San Francisco Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to reinforce their unionization efforts.
“They want to have a permanent seat at the table because this is where they work, and they love what they do and love working with each other,” said Gregory Max Palmer, communications officer at IWW. “These are serious issues, and they want to be taken seriously, and to them, this is the best way to address it.”
Two major incidents were left unaddressed by management, according to Olly DeStefano, who works in guest services. Last spring, a patron sexually harassed a worker. Management told the employee to continue her shift because “no one else knew how to use the point-of-sale system that the concierges use.” The employee followed up about a week later but didn’t receive a response. When she finally approached a manager in person about the incident, they didn’t take her seriously.
Several weeks later, a manager sexually harassed and assaulted a worker at the theater bar. The manager then pressured the employee to accept a ride home and forced himself upon her while intoxicated.
“People don’t feel safe because of the result of the hostile working conditions, especially for female-presenting people,” said DeStefano.
Alamo Drafthouse is a theater chain located all across the U.S., with two locations in California, several in Texas, and many others on the East Coast. This incident in San Francisco is yet another list of sexual assault and harassment reports attributed to the company.
In 2016, Devin Faraci stepped down as editor-in-chief for the blog Birth.Movies.Death, formerly owned by Alamo Drafthouse, after being accused of sexual assault. In 2017, multiple women spoke out against Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles after he sexually assaulted Alamo Drafthouse employee Jasmin Baker at a film event.
While workers aren’t currently looking to settle a collective bargaining contract, they’re demanding management attend in-person sexual harassment and sensitivity training facilitated by a company approved by the union.
Aaron Abrams, a server at Alamo Drafthouse, said this is workers’ number one priority for addressing workplace safety.
“We have many issues that need to be addressed, but we’re hoping to establish a safe workplace to prevent further harassment and abuse since it’s been a dark spot for Alamo Drafthouse as a company for years. We hope to add a level of protocol and accountability currently lacking in management.”
But with possibilities of union busting, which occurred at the Austin location where a worker was fired after a day of protest in July, DeStefano believes there’s ample support to prepare for retaliation. Alamo Drafthouse’s CEO, Shelli Taylor, was a former Starbucks executive, a company currently facing over 300 unfair labor practice charges.
“We’re ready for whatever they throw at us. This has been a very alarming issue that we’re very concerned about right now. If you can’t protect your employees from being sexually assaulted on the premises, there’s no way we can do our jobs effectively.”
Photo by Savannah Kuang
This has been updated on November 5, 2022 with minor edits for clarity.