Pleasure Chest Employees Unionize, Prompting Backlash from Owners

Pleasure Chest Employees Unionize, Prompting Backlash from Owners

Earlier this week, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced that workers at New York luxury sex shop The Pleasure Chest had unanimously voted to unionize. The news came at what seemed to be the end of a long battle between the store's owners and employees, who claimed that in addition to unfair wages, the predominately queer staff had been subjected to transphobic behavior during the entire campaign to unionize, during which they battled opposition from the company's leaders and consultants hired by Pleasure Chest.

Nico Fuentes, a Sex Specialist at Pleasure Chest, told Out in an interview that, "despite the company dropping thousands of dollars that they could have used to raise our wages, we unanimously voted yes to union representation. It's because of their cycle of manipulation and defensiveness that we insist on union protections. If [Pleasure Chest's owners] earnestly believe themselves to be allies to their staff — made up of marginalized intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class and ability —they will cease media griping and meet us at the bargaining table ready to be held accountable."

"We're ready to reset the already low bar and to make sure they live up to these progressive values they claim," she added.

Fuentes' comment about media griping turned out to be prescient: following a press release about the employees' decision to unionize, a op-ed was published on the Pleasure Chest blog by Sarah Tomchesson, the store's Head of Business Operations. "The Union would like to position the Pleasure Chest as blind to the conditions faced by our largely LGBTQ workforce and claim we have unfair labor practices and subject our workers to harassment.," writes Tomchesson. "While these claims make for attention grabbing headlines, arguably their main aim is to help bolster RWDSU’s standing on the national stage as a Union that is putting LGBTQ rights at the center of their efforts. This Union has only very recently begun to position LGBTQ protections as an organizing priority and their claims positioning the Pleasure Chest as an oppressive work environment are simply false. I argue that we have set the standard in our industry, not only in progressive policies and protections, but also in wages and benefits for decades, long before the Union began drawing attention to these issues."

"The union busting that the Pleasure Chest implemented is at the expense of brown and black folks who speak out against structures that harm and oppress them," said Fuentes in response. "Sarah Tomchesson's claim that we are lying about what we have experienced and know to be the truth — as if we didn't unanimously vote yes for union representation — is by definition gaslighting. Yet again, abuse of power comes as no surprise."

 

Latest videos on Out

From our Sponsors

READER COMMENTS ()