Workers at Nitehawk Cinema in Prospect Park move to unionize

exterior of nitehawk cinema with sign
Workers at Nitehawk Cinema in Prospect Park are petitioning to unionize.
File photo by Trey Pentecost

Workers at Brooklyn’s beloved Nitehawk Cinema in Prospect Park marched into a managers’ meeting on Tuesday and announced their intention to unionize.

More than 20 employees at the “premier dine-in theater” confronted management and delivered a letter stating their concerns about unfair labor practices, health and safety, and harassment, workers said. 

“I have seen my co-workers persist and adapt through unimaginable understaffing that continues to overwork and exhaust us,” said Nitehawk lead server Sabrina, in a statement. “We deserve safe working conditions and a livable wage reflective of the competitive nature of our job. We have put up with a lack of respect from management for far too long.” 

seats at nitehawk cinema
Nitehawk employees said they are underpaid and overworked. File photo by Sakeenah Saleem

Nitehawk workers plan to unionize with United Auto Workers 2179, according to UAW. On Feb. 7, more than 100 employees — including full and part-time waitstaff, bartenders, line staff, and servers — will petition the National Labor Relations Board for official certification. 

Higher-ups at Nitehawk did not voluntarily recognize the union. Nitehawk did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. 

Employees said they are “underpaid and overworked,” especially during special events and particularly busy times — like during holiday weekends or during the “Barbenheimer” craze last summer. 

But workers said the dramatic ups and downs in business leave them “physically unsafe and economically vulnerable.”

Lola, a runner at Nitehawk, said she has experienced “insane burnout” that caused her to get severely ill. More than once, Lola said, she was underpaid so severely she could not make rent. 

Workers pointed out that most of their day-to-day duties are conducted entirely in the dark, as they take orders, run food, and drop off checks in darkened theaters as movies are playing. 

“Even more so than the lack of livable wages, I’m appalled by the rampant harassment, sexual and otherwise, tolerated and in some cases even perpetrated by managers at Nitehawk,” said lead runner Ben. “It’s become apparent that a union is the only way to guarantee a safe work environment.”

Nitehawk was founded in Williamsburg in 2011, and opened its Prospect Park location in 2018. The Prospect Park location has seven screens in theaters ranging in size from 48 to 194 seats, according to the company’s website

nitehawk exterior
The Prospect Park location, which opened in 2018, has seven screens in theaters of varying sizes. Photo courtesy of Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons

In addition to regular, day-to-day movie screenings — accompanied by a full menu of food and drinks — Nitehawk offers regular special events, like the annual Shorts Fest

The push to unionize at Nitehawk came just three months after workers at Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn — another dine-in theater — voted 83-29 to join UAW. Employees at an Alamo location in lower Manhattan voted to join the union weeks later. 

“All workers deserve to receive the fruits of their labor,” said Nitehawk bartender Lydia, in a statement. “Nitehawk Cinema is no different. We are tired of being overworked, understaffed, and underpaid. The only way forward is through unionization.”