‘We get to make our lives better’: North Campus Via 313 location votes to unionize

Ali Juell, Senior News Reporter

After organizing and petitioning due to unfavorable working conditions, the North Campus location of pizza chain Via 313 voted in favor of unionization under the name Restaurant Workers United, according to a Nov. 1 press release.

Workers voted 11-7 in favor of unionization, with 15 contested ballots outstanding. Henry Epperson, a history and sociology senior and organizing employee, said the 15 contested ballots were from workers considered management to Via, or seasonal workers, so their ballots may or may not be counted. Two of the chain’s other Austin locations held union elections, with the East 6th Street restaurant voting not to unionize and the Oak Hill location’s outcome currently contested. The National Labor Relations Board will resolve all contested ballots on Nov. 18.

Emma Williamson, an employee at the North Campus location who was involved in the store’s unionizing efforts, said she’s appreciative of both the current and former Via 313 workers who contributed to her location’s unionization.

“We get to make our lives better and more rewarding and make our jobs more rewarding,” Williamson said. “It’s going to make the company significantly better.”

Epperson said that he became involved in union organizing shortly after he started to work at the East 6th Street location a year ago. Despite quitting his position recently, he said he’s proud of the efforts he and other organizers made to unionize the three locations.

“Even though we didn’t win at every store, the fact that we were able to win at one is incredible because we’re just kind of like this ragtag group of volunteers and activists,” Epperson said. “I’m very proud to have been a part of that.”

Both Epperson and Williamson said they experienced attempted “union-busting” at their locations including meetings with a human resources company Via 313 hired. Management at the North Campus location declined requests for comment. 

Restaurant Workers United has already expanded to include Pizza Lupo, a pizzeria in Louisville, Kentucky that voluntarily recognized their workers’ efforts to unionize. Epperson said seeing Pizza Lupo gain union membership feels like a result of the efforts he and other Via 313 organizers made here in Austin, and he’s excited to continue working as part Restaurant Workers United to extend his organizing knowledge to other restaurants.

“I’ve already talked to a few other workers that are interested in organizing in their workplace and it’s really cool to be able to pass down things that you’ve learned to others,” Epperson said. “Hopefully they can use that to win their own battles.”

As they prepare to bargain for things like better pay and improved working conditions, Williamson said she’s excited for all that’s ahead at the North Campus location. Not only does she feel hope for her workplace, but she said the effort has “brought a firework into (her) life” and helped her see the solidarity of the Austin service industry firsthand. 

“We appreciate every single person who cared even a little bit, every single person that honked their horn at us back in January at our protests,” Williamson said. “It’s hard to process it because … there’s been so much bad, but to think of all of the good that can come out of this is insane.”