That was fast: Just three days after 140 employees at downtown’s Bazaar by José Andrés announced their desire to form a union with Unite Here Local 25, management voluntarily agreed to recognize one on Friday, February 2. This marks first step in workers’ efforts to negotiate and win a collective bargaining agreement.
José Andrés Group provided the following statement to Eater on Friday:
“The Bazaar in Washington has agreed to voluntarily recognize a bargaining unit to represent workers. As an independent restaurant group based in Washington for over three decades amidst the most challenging of times, we are proud to have created places to work that are safe and equitable, with dignity for all. We hope in coming to the table together we can work cooperatively to preserve good jobs that will employ workers for years to come.”
A majority of Bazaar’s employees announced an intent to unionize this week on the eve of a big political event in their glitzy Waldorf Astoria workplace, resulting in some high-profile attention from their elected-official neighbors.
The Washington Press Club Foundation’s (WPCF) 78th Annual Congressional Awards, held Wednesday night in the hotel’s ballroom, was a who’s-who of U.S. senators, state representatives, and other congresspeople also working along Pennsylvania Avenue at the Capitol. Bazaar employees stood outside before the gala got under way, flagging over attendees for support as they call on their boss José Andrés to recognize a union. Politicians stopping to pose with pro-union signs included Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
“We hope that management will support our right to form a union, and that the celebrities, politicians and business leaders we wait on every day will stand with us,” per a statement from Bazaar’s pro-union staff.
Bazaar’s bargaining agent Unite Here Local 25 says a “supermajority” employees at the superstar chef and global humanitarian’s glamorous lobby-level restaurant want to form a union to secure basic protections for themselves and their families that include higher pay, better working conditions, access to cheaper healthcare, and improved policies as to how tips are distributed.
“We are carefully reviewing the request and will respond shortly,” per a spokeswoman for José Andrés Group and its 30-restaurant portfolio. “We are committed to a workplace that reflects the values of our organization.”
Unite Here Local 25 represents over 6,500 hotel, restaurant, and gaming workers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
Over 70 percent of Bazaar’s 150 employees have signed union cards, reports Bloomberg, which includes a largely-immigrant workforce of hosts, food runners, cooks, waiters, bartenders, among other jobs. The two-level stunner overlooking the lobby showcases a parade of avant-garde delights like “Jose” tacos topped with ibérico ham, gold leaf, and caviar.
The push to unionize comes the same week Andrés and his disaster-relief charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) received a Democratic nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The Spanish chef and human right activist fulfilled his decades-long dream of opening a restaurant inside downtown’s federally-owned Old Post Office Pavilion a year ago, only after its Trump International Hotel flag was stripped and replaced with the Waldorf Astoria. Back in 2015, Andrés famously pulled out of his lease inside the 263-room, clocktower-topped property following inflammatory remarks about immigrants from then-presidential candidate Trump.
Dining at Bazaar has “become a way for the Democratic elite to stick it to the former president,” per Politico, which threw the evening’s after-party. Neither service in Bazaar or its adjacent ballroom hosting the lavish dinner was reportedly disrupted as a result of the Wednesday night demonstration out front.
Once inside, guests were greeted with a humorous jab at their former co-worker George Santos — the embattled New York Republican congressman who took a tumble on the Waldorf’s steps the same week he was ousted from office. Santos himself took to X to circulate the wayfinding signage: