A drive to unionize employees at a single-unit independent pizzeria in Brooklyn could have a ripple effect throughout New York City.
Employees of Barboncino Pizza, which offers wood-fired Neapolitan pies to Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, have filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The move is supported by Workers United, a national labor union backing unionization efforts at Starbucks stores nationwide.
The story was originally reported by Jacobin, a magazine and website that describes itself as “a leading voice of the American left.” Jacobin notes that Barboncino could become the first single-unit independent pizza shop in New York to be unionized—“and perhaps not the last.”
As Eater reports, leaders of Barboncino Workers United asked the restaurant’s owners, Emma Walton and Jesse Shapell, to recognize the union in May, which would have prevented the need for a NLRB election. The deadline for recognition passed, however, prompting the employees to move forward with a formal ballot election with the NLRB.
“Barboncino’s ownership is aware some of its employees have shown an interest in unionizing,” Walton told Jacobin. “Barboncino will continue, as always, to support its customers, community and employees.”
Shapell and Walton purchased Barboncino Pizza last fall. Shortly after that, according to Eater, the pizzeria’s employees submitted a petition to the new owners seeking input on the employee handbook’s section on sexual harassment. They also requested higher wages for tipped employees and kitchen staff and a three-strike policy for terminating employees. They said their requests were denied.
“Barboncino offers competitive hourly wages in line with minimum wage requirements and current industry wage standards,” Shapell told Eater. “Our handbook includes a progressive discipline policy, as well as additional language providing greater employee protection to prevent harassment of staff by guests.”
Barboncino has about 40 non-management employees. Susannah Reskinoff, a bartender and server at the pizzeria, told Eater that the pro-union workers are “feeling very optimistic” about the vote.
If the unionization vote passes, Jacobini reports, “it could kick off other union campaigns among the city’s restaurant workers. Once Workers United organized one Starbucks, that model was quickly replicated across the country; the union hopes that, despite the differences in one campaign at a megacorporation versus many campaigns at smaller businesses, the similarities in the type of work and the worker-to-worker organizing model used in the Starbucks effort might create a domino effect in the restaurant industry.”
The Infatuation describes Barboncino as “the go-to sit-down pizza place in Crown Heights. Think of it as the Roberta’s of the area, but less crowded.” In February 2023, Your Brooklyn Guide ranked Barboncino among the best pizza spots in Brooklyn.