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Flaum Appetizing Products Dropped by Prominent Market over Workers' Rights Concerns

Park Slope Food Coop to Discontinue Sale of Sonny & Joe's Hummus Brand

For Immediate Release: Brandworkers - Contact: press (at), December 1, 2010

New York, NY- Members of the Park Slope Food Coop, a highly-regarded Brooklyn market, voted last night to stop selling Flaum Appetizing Corp. products, including Sonny & Joe's hummus, over workers' rights concerns. Flaum, a kosher food company, and its owner Moshe Grudhut illegally fired seventeen of their Latino workers en masse after the employees stood up against over a decade of unlawfully withheld overtime pay, denial of benefits, and abusive treatment from management. Though Flaum's retaliatory conduct was judged illegal in February 2009 after a full trial, the company is resisting compliance with the judge's order including the payment of over $260,000 in lost wages. Flaum has profited for years from the hard work of its immigrant employees but only raised the question of immigration status in a discriminatory bid to avoid the lawful court order.

"I was grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with almost two hundred members of the Coop yesterday evening," said Placido Romero, a Flaum worker whose firing was held to be illegal. "I worked at Flaum for 13 years and my co-workers and I didn't receive a penny of overtime, working sometimes as many as 80 hours per week. After all those years, Flaum didn't hesitate for a moment to throw me out of work leaving me incredibly worried about how I would pay rent and support my family. But we're campaigning with energy to win respect for our labor, the respect every worker deserves, and this decision by the Coop is an important step toward that goal."

In addition to cutting off orders of Flaum's Sonny & Joe's hummus brand, the Coop will refrain from purchasing Flaum-branded hummus, pickles, and Middle Eastern salads in addition to Tnuva diary products and Bodek cut vegetables which Flaum distributes in New York. The Flaum workers are part of the Focus on the Food Chain campaign, a joint effort of the IWW labor union in New York and non-profit organization Brandworkers. Focus on the Food Chain is organizing with recent immigrant workers to overcome sweatshop conditions in an industrial corridor of food processing and distribution warehouses that snake through Brooklyn and Queens. Flaum is emblematic of the working conditions in the sector where violations of basic workers' rights, exploitation of recent immigrants, and relentless retaliation against worker organizing are the norm. Still, workers have shown a steely resolve to speak out and take action for positive change.

"I appreciate the commitment to justice that the Coop demonstrated by supporting the Flaum workers and their campaign to bring Mr. Grudhut into compliance with the law," said Daniel Gross, the director of Brandworkers. "As the campaign continues, we look forward to additional food retailers embracing social responsibility in their supply chains by discontinuing Flaum's product line."

The Focus on the Food Chain campaign promotes a sustainable food system that incorporates respect for workers' human rights. Through worker-led organizing, direct action, and litigation, the campaign challenges and overcomes sweatshop conditions in New York's food processing and distribution warehouses. The Industrial Workers of the World is a dynamic and member-driven union committed to workplace democracy and global solidarity. Brandworkers is a non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food employees.

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