Jean-Georges Drops Tom Cat Bakery as Growing List of Prominent NYC Restaurants Join Immigrant Workers’ Campaign

Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:50am

Jean-Georges Drops Tom Cat Bakery as Growing List of Prominent NYC Restaurants Join Immigrant Workers’ Campaign

Pressure mounts on embattled bakery over concerns about its conduct during March 2017 ICE I-9 audit.

Long Island City, NY -  By halting purchases from Tom Cat Bakery, the acclaimed Jean-Georges restaurant group joins The Spotted Pig and Le Bernardin in a growing national movement for immigrant worker protections. The move comes in response to growing concerns about the bakery’s conduct during a March 2017 ICE I-9 audit.

"We do not agree with what [Tom Cat] did to their employees," said a representative for Jean-Georges management.

These concerns include months of Tom Cat deliberately withholding news of the audit from affected workers, hindering their ability to attain proper safeguards for their families and timely legal counsel. Equally troubling is the company’s decision to refuse, at a time when the nation’s foremost immigration experts warned of an ICE raid at the factory, the implementation of basic policies protecting immigrant workers. These policies, which Tom Cat refuses to adopt to this day, include demanding a warrant before ICE enters the premise. During the most dangerous single period of the audit, Tom Cat also chose to cut off dialogue with the affected workers, some with over 15 years of service to the bakery, a move which continues to baffle the current and former Tom Cat workers and the broader community.

“I stand to fight against injustice with my compañeros who were fired. I want Tom Cat’s customers to stop buying their bread until this campaign is resolved,” said Manuel Estevez, current 10-year Tom Cat Bakery employee.

The workers’ story has earned important supporters, including the New York City Office of Labor Policy and Standards which now promotes adoption of workplace audit and raid protections across the city.

“We continue to fight, not just for us, but for everyone who’s been in such an unjust situation, for our co-workers still in the factory who are at-risk.” said Hector Solis, a 12-year former Tom Cat Bakery employee.

The workers’ community allies have staged demonstrations in front of Robert Restaurant, part of the Ark Restaurant group and a Tom Cat Bakery customer. Robert has responded to the actions with documented instances of hostility towards community demonstrators.

“We expect more from the restaurants we visit. Tom Cat should meet the workers’ demands and restaurants should stop serving their bread until they do,” said Jeanne Baron, of the NYC activist group, Rise and Resist.

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Since 2011, workers at Tom Cat Bakery have been organizing with Brandworkers, a non-profit organization that brings food manufacturing workers together to fight for good jobs and a sustainable food system.

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