LOS ANGELES – January 29, 2024 – Today, workers at all five Touchstone Climbing gyms across Southern California formally file for voluntary union recognition with company management. Organizing with Workers United, employees are prepared to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board on January 31, if necessary.
Touted as California’s largest indoor rock climbing and fitness community, Touchstone has a poor record regarding its treatment of front-line employees. The unionization effort was catalyzed by an employee walkout in October 2023 after management failed to disclose a detailed threat of violence, directed at the Hollywood Boulders location.
Following repeated requests for basic security and a lack of response from management, affected workers have found their safety to not be a priority. So far none of the safety requests have been met, despite a 3.5 hour emotional HR meeting in November. Touchstone management proceeded to close the internal Slack channels that were accessed by all SoCal employees, claiming it had become “an echo chamber for employee grievances” – referring to staff members’ posts regarding reappearances of the individual who issued violent threats at multiple gym locations.
Employees want to unionize to guarantee basic worker safety protections, a living wage, expanded paid sick leave, staff-led equity initiatives and improved opportunities for growth within the climbing and fitness industry.
The union bargaining unit includes desk staff, ropes safety staff, fitness instructors, janitorial staff, coaches and routesetters – totaling over 100 employees – from all five Touchstone gym locations in Southern California: The Post (Pasadena), Hollywood Boulders (Hollywood), Verdigo Boulders (Burbank), Cliffs of ID (Culver City), and LA Boulders (DTLA). Staff hope that their organizing efforts will guarantee robust improvements in gym safety, DEI protections, and financial stability for employees.
Worker interviews and photos are available upon request.
Climbing gyms should be a place of community, not a place where you worry about workplace violence. We need a union just to have our security concerns heard. ~ Jess Kim | Desk Staff, The Post
We here at Touchstone are unionizing because for too long we have entrusted management with the exclusive responsibility of creating an equitable and safe environment for both employees and members alike. After a series of recent events, we’ve realized that as the people who are directly interacting with both our peers and customers on a day to day basis, we have the unique perspective necessary for creating and maintaining policies that will help meet the needs of everyone. We love our jobs and our community and we firmly believe that through unionization we can not only work toward the collective betterment of the quality of life for our staff, we can ensure, in perpetuity, that the gyms themselves will make changes that align with the views of the our staff and our community together, and not just satisfy the goals of an touch minority. Our ultimate mission is not just to right recent wrongs, but to make sure the people who work our positions after we are gone, and the community they foster, feel as seen and protected as can be. “ ~ Desk Staff | Hollywood Boulders (requested to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation)
I am joining the union because I want to feel safer at work and receive fair benefits as an instructor. ~ Yoga Instructor | Hollywood Boulders (requested to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation)
We are unionizing because we love our gyms and community and want to take a greater role in creating an equitable, safe space for all of our friends and colleagues. ~ Jordan Mueck | Desk Staff, Cliffs of Id
For months, we have called upon Touchstone Climbing to listen to their staff regarding safety and health concerns and received no response. Thus, we are unionizing to hold Touchstone accountable to the standards they claim to value, including diversity, equity, and safety for their employees and the community that attends their gyms. Ensuring that the entire staff is respected and compensated fairly will enable us to continue building up the gyms and community we know and love. Through collective unionization, we will have a voice that Touchstone will no longer be able to ignore. ~ Patrick McHugh | yoga instructor and former desk staff, LA Boulders
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