Ellen’s Stardust Diner, the home of the world famous singing waitstaff, is a New York City institution that has been serving up diner classics and live entertainment since 1987. Over the years, Ellen’s has grown exponentially into one of NYC’s busiest and most profitable restaurants. We provide high volume crowds of all ages the opportunity to enjoy performances from “the future stars of the stage and screen” in a fun and interactive environment, all for the price of a cheeseburger. With an impressive track record of broadway success stories, Ellen’s has become not only a beloved tourist attraction, but a springboard for hundreds of New York City’s most talented performers chasing their dreams in the Big Apple.
Thanks to its flexibility in scheduling, a welcoming policy for returning employees, and a work environment that encourages creativity, support and friendship, a position at Ellen’s has become one of the most coveted service industry jobs for artists in New York City. Flexible scheduling allows employees to take full advantage of audition opportunities. If an employee in good standing books a show, they have been welcomed back at the end of their contract, providing them financial stability between performing jobs. Additionally, employees share networking opportunities, collaborate on creative projects, and regularly work on performance material. These benefits attract both up-and-coming performers and Broadway veterans alike, making Ellen’s a diverse and supportive family of artists from across the globe.
In January, Stardusters were given notice that the corporation was expanding and a brand new management team would be taking over operations of the diner. The owners and new management team decided to cut labor costs in an attempt to maximize profits, leaving employees overworked without commensurate wage increases. A large number of employees have since been terminated, while others were antagonized and targeted by management until they felt compelled to quit. Workers are now leaving at a rate never before seen at Ellen’s, and unfortunately, not to join Broadway casts and national tours. Additionally, employees returning from theatre contracts have been met with resistance when trying to resume work. Our job security has been threatened and our work environment has become unfair and hostile.
Management has been generally dismissive of our concerns regarding employee safety and working conditions; discouraging communication, purposely creating confusion, and dodging accountability. Numerous safety violations have been ignored. Our sound system has never been installed or maintained correctly and is a danger to employees’ hearing and vocal health. Employees have been refused workmans comp, sick and vacation pay and there have been numerous unaddressed incidents of sexual, racial, religious, size and age discrimination. There has also been an explicit effort to force out long term employees through malicious and arbitrary disciplinary actions.
In response to current working conditions, the employees of Ellen’s Stardust Diner have organized and are standing up for our rights and the conditions of our employment. Stardust Family United (SFU) represents the interests of all front and back of house staff.
Our mission is to preserve the Stardust family legacy in order to ensure that future generations of Stardusters and customers alike can enjoy the same experience that gives Ellen’s its reputation. In order to do this, we must restore the trust between all employees so that we can move forward as the team we once were.
SFU is a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the singing union. For more information, visit their website: www.iww.org/content/about-iww.
We are working to guarantee that all employees are safe, secure, fairly compensated and treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
This is our right and our responsibility.
We are Stardust (Family United).