Saturday, December 4, 2010
Park Slope Food Co-op loses faith in kosher vendor Flaum Appetizing Corp.
The Park Slope Food Co-op has banned a Williamsburg kosher food company's products over charges it illegally fired workers who complained about getting stiffed on overtime.
The grocery store's members voted this week to pull from the co-op's shelves products from Flaum Appetizing Corp., which makes hummus, pickles, salads and other kosher products.
The Daily News reported last week that Flaum owner Moshe Grunhut has refused to comply with federal orders to cough up about $260,000 in back pay after the National Labor Relations Board found he illegally booted 17 workers.
The co-op is the first market to boycott Flaum over the charges. Daniel Gross, executive director of Brandworkers International, an advocacy group backing the workers, said he hopes other stores will follow suit.
"Flaum's bread and butter is their clients," Gross said. "That sends a very popular economic message to Moshe that his business practices are incompatible with the values of New York consumers."
The fired employees said they worked as 80 hours a week for minimum wage with no overtime. When the workers tried to form a union and went on a brief strike in 2008, management ordered them to leave - a move the National Labor Relations Board ruled was illegal retaliation.
"I worked at Flaum for 13 years, and my co-workers and I didn't receive a penny of overtime," said Placido Romero, 36,of Bushwick, who told his story to the food co-op members before the vote. "After all those years, Flaum didn't hesitate for a moment to throw me out of work."
Co-op general manager Joe Holtz said Flaum's Sonny and Joe's hummus has been a big seller, with members buying about 762 containers a week. Despite that, the vote to get rid of it was an overwhelming 165 to 3.
"Our co-op ... tries wherever possible to deal with other companies that are ethical employers," said Holtz.
Grunhut didn't return a call yesterday. He previously told the Daily News that he always paid required overtime, and got rid of the workers because he discovered they were illegal immigrants.