Alamo Workers Demand More Than Popcorn in Unionization Talks

By Ernest Gurulé

Current and former employees of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema picketed Jan. 2 in pursuit of a more worker-friendly environment. Photo courtesy of CWA Local 7777
Current and former employees of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema picketed Jan. 2 in pursuit of a more worker-friendly environment. Photo courtesy of CWA Local 7777

As dusk settled in, commuters headed down Colfax Avenue on the first workday of the new year caught a glimpse of a picket line at perhaps one of the last places they might have expected to see one.

Westbound traffic saw a sidewalk demonstration made up of about a dozen current and former workers picketing in front of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s Sloan’s Lake location. Marching in a loose but resolute circle, they inspired a few honks and a few yells of support shouted from passenger windows.

“What do we want?” chanted workers led by a bull-horned cantor. “Justice,” a synonym for better working conditions, came the answer. One way to get it, along with a litany of other changes, they believe, is with a union.

For nearly a year, Maggie Werhane worked at the Sloan’s Lake Alamo. She left in July 2023, terminated she said, over what she called “bill mismanagement,” charging incorrectly but later correcting charges. Werhane called it a no-harm, no-foul issue for either the customer or company.

While at Alamo, Werhane was a guest attendant. She might show up for work and be asked to perform any number of jobs. It might be taking food and drink orders inside the theater or helping behind the bar. 

“I floated around a little bit,” Werhane said with a chuckle, adding quickly, “I didn’t mind.” 

Werhane’s work issues began, she said, when a co-worker began audibly directing inappropriate comments at her. Werhane, who has identified as “a female-presenting person” for the last three years, at first tried ignoring the co-worker. 

“It happened, but it didn’t seem that serious,” Werhane said. She asked the co-worker to stop, but it escalated to the point where the co-worker began touching her hair and asking, “Is it real?”

Taking the problem to Alamo human relations, Werhane said, went nowhere.

Werhane’s and other workers’ issues are part of a long list of things they want corrected, including scheduling, workplace safety, better pay, and a better and more worker-friendly corporate relationship. 

Pay, for most on the early January picket line, is maybe the biggest issue. Werhane said while she made $25 an hour, which sounds fine, there would be weeks when she would only get two hours of work. It was a “week to week” concern and often, she said, seemed punitive.

Bradley Ian Miller, another former worker, said he was fired over attendance issues, but believes the real reason was because he was spreading the word on unionizing. Miller’s job was delivering orders to customers. He said he often stumbled on improperly installed carpeting and complained. Nothing happened. He also complained about inconsistent scheduling, one week getting 10 to 15 hours, one time getting 50. There was also no paid overtime.

Workers have been huddling with Communications Workers of America 7777 and CWA’s Executive Vice President Brian Winkler on organizing, the benefits of unions and how to construct a contract. 

“Once they win their union,” Winkler said, “the company will be required to bargain with them.”

To date, there is no set time for a vote. A planned vote to unionize that was set for Jan. 16 did not take place.

Winkler said Alamo’s corporate team did not want any vote taken until workers, as many as 300, at all three metro area theaters could vote. Getting workers at each of the Alamo locations might be tricky, he said, since Alamo’s Littleton theater workers have not been involved in any unionizing talks. He also said that determining if all three locations need to vote on organizing will ultimately be determined by the National Labor Relations Board.

“We just have to wait, but we’re confident their decision will be single cinema votes,” Winkler said.

Alamo’s corporate headquarters did not respond to requests for comment about the workers’ unionization efforts.

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