For Immediate Release:
Focus on the Food Chain
January 6, 2012
Contact: press (at) brandworkers.org
Workers at Kosher Food Producer Score Legal Victory for Equal Rights
Labor Board Prohibits Employers from Engaging in Discriminatory 'Fishing Expeditions'
Washington, DC- Immigrant workers organizing for justice at a Brooklyn-based producer and distributor of kosher food products have taken a big step forward in their campaign and achieved a legal victory for workers around the country. Using discriminatory allegations about workers' immigration status, Flaum Appetizing has been resisting compliance with a 2009 trial decision that found the company illegally fired employees who came together seeking overtime and improved working conditions. The National Labor Relations Board holding precludes Flaum from continuing to raise baseless immigration status defenses against at least eleven of the workers, and potentially as many as fifteen. By prohibiting employers from engaging in discriminatory 'fishing expeditions' against immigrants or perceived immigrants, the Board clarified important procedural safeguards in cases governed by the landmark anti-immigrant Supreme Court case, Hoffman Plastic.
"Companies that discriminate and undermine labor rights drive down economic standards for every working person, native-born and immigrant alike," said Daniel Gross, the director of non-profit organization Brandworkers, which, along with the Industrial Workers of the World labor union is campaigning for justice at Flaum as part of the Focus on the Food Chain campaign. "Worker organizing helps create the type of quality jobs that support a dynamic economy and healthy communities. The Labor Board's decision is an important step toward ensuring that Flaum and companies like it will not escape accountability through unfounded and discriminatory inquiries into immigration status."
New York grocery stores and restaurants rely on an industrial corridor of food processing factories and distribution warehouses like Flaum that hold down wages and safety standards by exploiting recent immigrant workers. Wage theft, discrimination, and abuse is common in the sector and efforts for change are almost always met with determined and unlawful retaliation. Overcoming these challenges, the Flaum workers are waging a powerful campaign to bring the company into compliance with fundamental workplace protections. The workers have shared their story and persuaded over 120 of NYC's most prominent supermarket locations to discontinue selling Flaum products, including it's Sonny & Joe's hummus, until the company comports with the rule of law. The global kosher cheese giant Tnuva refused to renew its distribution contract with Flaum after spirited worker campaigning and support from Jewish organizations including Uri L'Tzedek, the Orthodox social justice organization.
"We're glad Flaum didn't get away with avoiding its responsibilities under the law," said Maria Corona, one of the victorious workers and a Focus on the Food Chain member. “There's power in coming together with your co-workers and we are well on our way to winning the justice we have been seeking."
The NLRB's Office of the General Counsel is prosecuting the case against Flaum. The Flaum workers are represented by Eisner & Mirer, a New York labor & employment law firm.
Focus on the Food Chain promotes sustainable jobs and a thriving local food industry in the City of New York. Through organizing, grassroots advocacy, and legal action, the campaign challenges and overcomes unlawful conditions in food processing and distribution warehouses. The Focus campaign is a collaboration of non-profit organization Brandworkers and the NYC Industrial Workers of the World labor union.