Fresh off of announcing its intent to hold a union election, employees of local Detroit-style pizzeria Via 313 have filed two unfair labor practice charges against the company through the National Labor Relations Board.
Restaurant Workers United (RWU), the union that employees of Via 313’s three physical locations are looking to join (the chainlet’s two food trucks are not part of the effort), is alleging that the company is retaliating against employees for organizing. An RWU organizer has filed two complaints about incidents they believe violate Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act. The first is that Via 313 management is withholding pre-planned raises and promotions because of union activity; the second is that management disciplined a known union leader for asking about the company’s decisions to withhold the raises.
The first allegation is based on an August 11th conversation where a regional manager allegedly told one worker that she was “in a freeze because of the union.” But “if the union lost the election,” the manager continued, “they would continue the conversation and move forward with their promotion.” Another worker was told on the same day that “she could not move forward with promotions or raises because of the union”
The second allegation is based on two conversations on August 12 between an employee and management. The employee asked about the company’s decision to withhold pre-planned wages and promotions because of the union election, and at the end of his shift was allegedly disciplined for the conversation earlier that day and “discussing other peoples’ wages.”
The complaints to the NLRB specifically cite subsections 1 and 3 of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, which state that an employer may not interfere with an employee’s right to organize and encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.
Via 313 posted signs at the three organizing restaurants — East Sixth, Oak Hill, and North Campus — from the founders stating, “We DO NOT believe having a union is in the best interest of our company, our employees, or our customers.” Eater Austin has also obtained communication from Via 313 to its employees stating that the company was working with an HR consultant to host “a series of training sessions for all of our team members to educate everyone on the NLRB election process and the pros and cons of unionization.”
“The way the company is responding is definitely anti-union,” Elyanna Calle, a member of the RWU representing the Via 313 organizers, tells Eater, “because, along with signs in the stores saying they don’t believe unions are in the best interest of us, they’re avoiding unionization to save their wallets.”
The NLRB, which enforces the National Labor Relations Act, cannot assess penalties but can order remedies, such as reinstating a dismissed employee or ordering back wages to be paid.
The unionization election ballots will be mailed out to Via 313 restaurant workers on Thursday, September 29, and the votes will be counted on Thursday, October 27.
A new website called Via 313 Know to Vote includes a statement from the restaurant founders and brothers Brandon and Zane, information about the union and unionization process, and shares a stance against the union. The site notes that “Via 313 firmly believes that a union would not be advantageous for our associates, our customers, our communities, or the economic growth” and that the company “sincerely believes that a third-party influence could seriously impair the relationship between associates and management.”
The Hunts shared a statement on the website where they write about growing up in Detroit — a known pro-union city — and that “the distraction and interference of organized labor will not be the driving factor” in achieving “the American Dream.” The website was created on September 1, a mere four days before Labor Day.
Eater Austin has reached out to Via 313 for comment multiple times and has not received a response. Eater Austin has also reached out to the owners of the Via 313 Know to Vote website. Via 313 has blocked the union on social media, according to RWU, and turned off comments on its own posts.
Via 313 opened as a food truck serving Detroit-style pizza in 2011. The Hunts partnered with restaurant-focused investment company Savory in 2020, which led to the brand’s rapid expansion in Utah and Texas.
Update, Tuesday, September 20, 3:48 p.m.: This article, originally published on August 22, has been updated to include the union’s election dates and the Via 313 Know to Vote website.