The 31 fired singing servers of Ellen’s Stardust Diner have reached an agreement with management on the eve of a National Labor Relations Board trial concerning their labor dispute. The proceeding would have disclosed details about 19 alleged violations of federal law, among which were retaliatory firings as the servers moved to unionize. In a statement released by Stardust Family United—the union representing the singing staff—all 31 employees who were terminated have been offered full and immediate reinstatement of their jobs. Moreover, all will receive back-pay from the time they were fired. Thirteen of the 31 servers are returning to their jobs immediately.
The singing wait staff unionized in August 2016 under the aegis of Industrial Workers of the World, citing unfair and sometimes unsafe working conditions. The servers claimed that new management at Ellen’s also held back wages. Ellen’s owner Ken Sturm then filed a lawsuit charging servers with stealing from the restaurant. A bitter stand-off ensued. In March 2017, the National Labor Relations Board authorized the issuing of a Complaint against Stardust owners for multiple violations of federal labor law, including the retaliatory and unlawful terminations.
The settlement agreement requires Stardust owners to mail official notices to all employees, informing them that the company will not violate federal law by engaging in certain unlawful practices such as surveilling and threatening workers, interfering with their use of social media, and discouraging them from taking action to improve working conditions. Ellen’s Stardust Diner’s owners did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, issuing a statement which reads, “Stardust has been a welcoming place in the heart of Times Square for employees, tourists and local patrons for over 30 years. We expect these 13 servers, who previously worked for Stardust, to fit in well into our supportive and inclusive work environment.”
Ellen’s Stardust Diner has long been a showcase for wait staff who sing during service. Many have booked Broadway shows or other jobs in the entertainment field and have been allowed to return to their service jobs if desired.