For Immediate Release:
Focus on the Food Chain and Uri L'Tzedek
Contact: press (at) brandworkers.org
Rabbis and Workers Persuade Kosher Cheese Giant to Drop Distributor Over Wage Theft and Mass Firing
Tnuva Severs Ties with Brooklyn-Based Flaum Appetizing Amid Heated Labor Dispute
New York, NY (11/14/2011)- Tnuva, the world's largest kosher diary company, will discontinue its relationship with New York food processor and distributor, Flaum Appetizing, after a global campaign led by immigrant workers and their supporters in the Jewish community. Tnuva joins several other food industry leaders who have cut ties with Flaum after a court ruling which found that the company illegally fired seventeen of its Latino employees for demanding to be paid in accordance with state and federal law. Flaum and its owner Moishe Grunhut continue to resist complying with the court order even as they face an additional trial over hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid minimum wage and overtime.
"Jewish leaders from around the country were proud to join the call for Tnuva to honor the rights of the workers who distribute its cheese to supermarkets," said Ari Hart, the co-founder of Uri L'Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization. "We commend Tnuva for joining the many other food industry leaders who will not be doing business with Flaum Appetizing until all legal obligations are met. This is a big step forward toward justice at Flaum and a powerful message to Mr. Grunhut that it's time to come to the table and accept a fair settlement of the dispute."
A dozen prominent rabbis from around the country wrote to Tnuva earlier this year expressing concern about Flaum's failure to pay monies owed to the workers. In August, a group of rabbis joined immigrant workers from Flaum and community leaders for a delegation to the Manhattan offices of Apax Partners, the private equity company that owns Tnuva. The company's move away from Flaum comes on the heels of a Day of Action calling on Tnuva to honor its distribution workers which included actions around the world, a delegation to Tnuva USA's New Jersey headquarters, and participation from the Occupy Wall Street movement whose NYC General Assembly heard testimony from a former Flaum worker and leader of the struggle.
"I am happy that Tnuva is showing consideration for the rights of the employees who work hard every day getting their cheeses packed and delivered to supermarkets at a very fast pace," said Maria Corona, a former Flaum employee whose firing was held to be a violation of federal law. "It seems like the whole world wants Mr. Grunhut to settle but he prefers to pay lawyers rather than his workers."
Tnuva's decision not to renew its distribution contract with Flaum cements a growing consensus among food industry leaders that Flaum should satisfy all its legal obligations. Over eighty leading supermarkets and grocery store locations in New York including Zabar's, Morton Williams, and Food Emporium have stopped selling Flaum's Sonny & Joe's hummus until the company comports itself in accordance with the rule of law.
"Tnuva dropping Flaum is a major testament to the power of every day workers to get organized and make change," said Daniel Gross, the director of Brandworkers. "The Flaum workers along with their families and supporters have been clear: they will not rest until their hard work is respected and justice is won. It's time for Mr. Grunhut to read the writing on the wall and return to the table for a fair settlement."
Focus on the Food Chain promotes a sustainable food system that incorporates respect for workers' human rights. Through organizing, grassroots advocacy, and legal action, the campaign is challenging and overcoming sweatshop conditions in New York's food processing and distribution warehouses. The Focus campaign is a joint effort of non-profit organization Brandworkers and the NYC Industrial Workers of the World labor union.
Uri L'Tzedek is an Orthodox social justice organization guided by Torah values and dedicated to combating suffering and oppression. Through community based education, leadership development and action, Uri L'Tzedek creates discourse, inspires leaders, and empowers the Jewish community towards creating a more just world.
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