An Alamo Drafthouse worker was fired after workers protested for more pay. Union calls it retaliation.
Simon Ingrand was called into his manager's office Wednesday. The Alamo Drafthouse server was a member of the workers union at the South Lamar location and had helped organize a strike the day before.
He was fired.
“Every organizing attempt comes with some amount of risk,” he said. “I was hoping that they wouldn't resort to using illegal tactics. I believe my termination to be wrongful termination.”
Ingrand and other employees with the union Drafthouse United organized a “sick-out” on Tuesday that nearly a third of employees scheduled for that day took part in, an organizer said. The protest came after the union sent a letter at the beginning of June demanding a $4 to $5 raise across the board for all employees. They asked for the raise, or a clear path to it, to be implemented by June 30.
Zach Corpstein, an Alamo employee and union member, said the union had a meeting with management after the deadline, but there were no clear dates, deadlines or numbers for when a raise could happen. He said the union found this "unsatisfactory" and decided to strike.
Corpstein said Alamo Drafthouse's unresponsiveness to the union is what workers have been dealing with since they went public with their union back in February. The union started forming in November, when the company ended the COVID-19 regulation of spaced seating in theaters, which Corpstein said was done without any warning to workers.
Corpstein said this poor communication on COVID-19 guidelines, along with expensive insurance policies, low pay, the rising cost of living in Austin and maintenance problems at the building, led to the formation of Drafthouse United. Over half of the nearly 130 workers at the location are a part of the union, he said.
Since the union formed, Corpstein said there have been some positive changes, namely some maintenance fixes at the building. But overall, he said, the union members have largely been ignored, so they decided to give the Austin-based movie theater company a demand for more money with a deadline of June 30.
“We wanted to send a message to corporate,” he said. “And how best to do that other than disrupting business sales for a day in one of the most profitable locations in the country?”
In addition to the sick-out, workers protested at the location and asked moviegoers walking in and on social media to trade in their tickets for another day, which Corpstein said impacted sales.
Ingrand, who had been a server since April, helped organize the sick-out. He sent texts to employees letting them know union members were planning to call in sick Tuesday in protest. A few days ahead of the protest, he said he was called into his manager's office and written up for sending those texts and using company resources for a non-work-related issue.
Ingrand said he was accused of using the website Alamo uses to schedule shifts as a way to get his coworkers' numbers, and that his texts caused distress to another coworker because it woke up their baby. Ingrand denies that he used that website to get the phone numbers and said he either asked coworkers himself or got them from a separate spreadsheet.
Then, after the protest actually took place, he said he was fired for what he had been written up for days prior. The union says it believes this was retaliation for organizing and taking part in the strike, which is illegal under U.S. labor law.
Alamo Drafthouse did not return requests for comment.
Union members have since started a petition to get Ingrand his job back with compensated pay. As of Friday morning, it had nearly 650 signatures. Corpstein said Drafthouse United wasn't planning on more strikes, but that’s uncertain now that Ingrand was fired.
“With this sort of retaliation from management, which is not like anything we’ve seen before, some action should be taken,” Corpstein said. “Our priority now is to get Simon his job back.”