American Theatre: Booze, Bard, Union Card: Drunk Shakespeare Troupes Get Organized

Chicago is no stranger to worker’s unions. The city’s Haymarket Riot of 1886 erupted amid a national call for the eight-hour workday, and the Windy City was home to the first all-Black labor union in America, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in 1925. So it should come as no surprise that Chicago’s branch of Drunk Shakespeare, a popular party theatre brand with outposts all over the U.S., was the first to call for unionizing.

“We have had so many conversations with our upper management about the issues we are trying to fix, and once it became clear that they would not budge on these issues, unionizing became the obvious choice,” said Ella Fent, Drunk Shakespeare United union leader and Drunk Shakespeare Chicago server. “In late April, we had an unsuccessful meeting with our upper management, and it became clear that we needed external support. So I reached out to EWOC (Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee), and they gave us a fantastic start to our unionizing process.”