Tabletop Workers United negotiations stalled by lawyer’s belligerence and subsequent vacation

Hex & Co’s desire to speed up the bargaining process has been stymied by ownership’s obstinate and outright hostile legal counsel

Tabletop Workers United negotiations stalled by lawyer’s belligerence and subsequent vacation
Credit: Tabletop Workers United Twitter

On Thursday, June 6, the Tabletop Workers United union held contract negotiations with Jon Freeman and Gregory May. Between the two, they jointly or individually own New York City’s 5 largest game board cafes, including TWU members Hex&Co, the Brooklyn Strategist, and the Uncommons. This session was the first where customers and community members of the game board cafes were invited to speak at the bargaining table.

While collective bargaining negotiations are tense by their very nature, a specter hung over this particular session. Fifteen minutes after the meeting was supposed to begin, he appeared. Andrew Hoffman—Freeman and May’s legal counsel, who goes by Andy—strolled into the bargaining meeting with a Starbucks cup in hand, seemingly anticipating that this meeting would be fruitful and begin the end of the negotiation process. Hoffman's tardy arrival is part of a broader pattern of recent behavior that disrespects both the community and the union's time. It also exemplifies a disconnect between his client's desire to speed along the negotiation process and his own unwillingness to take any meaningful steps down that road.

"It does seem like having the community be part of the meeting made management tone down slightly."

Once negotiations began, this eager, agreeable facade gave way to a combative and dismissive attitude more in line with the union’s previous statements regarding Hoffman’s behavior at the bargaining table. 

“At an early bargaining session Andy called us ‘Low class, disgusting morons,’” said William Ketter, a member of the TWU bargaining committee. What prompted these comments? “We were hosting free events to get the word out [about the union]”—making the public nature of this meeting all the more important. While public bargaining meetings are relatively uncommon, unions do have a right to do so when including public statements. 

Thursday’s bargaining session will be the final in-person meeting between union members and ownership for at least four months, as Freeman and Hoffman will be on vacation in June and Hoffman will be away at his summer vacation home until September. Rascal requested a comment from Hoffman regarding this and other statements made during the meeting, to no response.

Future working meetings will be held via Zoom, though Hoffman rejected a request for the union to record these sessions. He stated that recording bargaining meetings has a "chilling effect" and is an "unfair labor practice." Hoffman believes that in these meetings, people should feel “free to speak their minds.” However, given that Hoffman seems to be the only one to object to having his statements recorded, it calls into question what exactly he would be unable to say, and why he wouldn’t want it documented.

"The union seems very amenable to working alongside management to find terms that work for both. But it feels like management is less keen on meeting the workers halfway."

Rascal has previously reported on Hoffman’s comments where he allegedly told the bargaining committee that they “should all burn in hell” and that they were “fucking disgusting.” In a statement to HellGate, The Hex&Co owners claimed these remarks made by their attorney were in response to a demand that the employers “assist in collecting contributions for [the Workers United] political action committee” and was directed at members of Workers United, regarding a tweet that said “Solidarity with Palestine!” which was made by an individual without union approval. The tweet remained up for less than an hour, but has since resulted in an lawsuit between Starbucks and the Starbucks Workers Union over use of the brand’s logo—a suit that Hoffman brought up during the first few minutes of the public negotiation session. Given this context, Hoffman’s late appearance—with Starbucks in hand— begins to feel more pointed.

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