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New York board game cafe Hex&Co wins vote to join rising tide of tabletop unionisation

Hex Workers Unite is the latest board game-related business to organise for better working conditions.

Photo of Hex Workers United posted to the board game cafe union's X.com account
Image credit: Hex Workers United/X.com

Workers at the New York City-based Hex&Co won their union election and will establish the first unionised board game cafe in the state. According to a press release, 50 employees of the 66 eligible electors voted to join with Workers United NY/NJ and are now calling themselves Hex Workers United.

An 80% majority of Hex&Co’s staff filed a petition to the company’s management back in September, informing Co-owners Greg May and Jon Freeman of their unmet needs and conditions that could not remain unaddressed.

BoardGameWire reported that the workers requested a living wage of $22.50 per hour, which matched the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator’s suggestion for businesses in Manhatten. They also want more staff to meet the increased workload demand and fully transparent promotion paths.

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May and Freeman, who also own Uncommons and the Brooklyn Strategist respectively, immediately denied the request of voluntary union recognition and held that line when the workers presented them with a public letter signed by thirty-five elected officials inside New York City. Workers claim the co-owners then carried out an “aggressive union busting campaign”, citing captive audience meetings, union misinformation and targeted conversations to erode support. Hex&Co instead filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, which they have now won by a significant margin.

“Winning a union means that I can feel secure in my job, and that I won’t have to be afraid to speak up when I feel something in my workplace is wrong,” said Sasha Brunetti in the press release. Another worker, Joseph Valle Hoag, added: “Winning our union means I don't have to listen to management try to convince me that I shouldn't have rights anymore. It means that the false rumours they have spread about me and the organising committee can stop and It means my coworkers and I will finally be treated with the respect we deserve in the workplace.”

A majority of workers at both Uncommons and the Brooklyn Strategist have recently demanded their own union representation in their respective board game cafes, to which May and Freeman also immediately refused. Those NLRB-protected votes are ongoing, but Hex Workers United’s win shores up major support for others to follow in their wake.

Hex&Co join a growing unionisation movement within the tabletop industry that include Pathfinder and Starfinder RPG maker Paizo, trading card game resellers TCGPlayer and Card Kingdom, and several other related businesses - Noble Knight Games and Mox Boarding House, among them.

That movement mimics an even larger wave of union support and collective worker action as a US recession, wealth disparity and post-COVID 19 pandemic conditions leave a huge proportion of working class Americans disillusioned with management’s improving things on their own.

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Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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