WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 2, 2023) – The United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 Union, along with a coalition of 20 supporting organizations, has announced a consumer boycott of Union Kitchen stores beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, June 16.
The boycott was announced at a press conference on Thursday outside the Union Kitchen location in Eckington. Organizers are planning the boycott in response to management’s ongoing and unlawful efforts to undermine the workers’ union, including firing multiple employees for union activity, in violation of federal law.
Shortly before the event, the company promised to do better.
“We came here prepared to announce a boycott in two days,” explained UFCW Local 400 Organizer Travis Acton. “But thanks to the extraordinary support of our community partners and Union Kitchen customers, today the company gave us assurances that they will change their behavior and fairly negotiate a contract. So instead of two days, now we are giving the company two weeks. If in that time we are not convinced the company is serious about negotiating a contract, we will move forward with the boycott on June 16. The countdown begins now.”
The union has created a webpage with a countdown clock to the launch of the boycott. Once the boycott begins, organizers have committed to have a presence at every store to call on customers to shop elsewhere.
Over the next two weeks, the union will hold meetings with the company to negotiate a contract in the hopes of avoiding a boycott.
Workers at five Union Kitchen locations in DC and Virginia democratically voted to unionize but were not officially recognized until June of last year, after a lengthy legal battle in which management attempted to overturn the election results. The effort was sparked after employees learned that Union Kitchen wasn’t paying them their tips. When they complained, Union Kitchen eliminated tipping altogether in retaliation against them. Now, they’ve filed a lawsuit to take the owner to court over this wage theft.
Even after officially unionizing, management continued its aggressive and unlawful effort to undermine the union. The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint alleging that Union Kitchen was guilty of 26 violations of federal law after it fired workers just for supporting their union, among other violations. But even after it settled those allegations for $25,000 earlier this year, Union Kitchen immediately continued its anti-union campaign. Since then, multiple new allegations have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
In a letter delivered to management last week, a coalition of organizations notified Union Kitchen management of their intent to boycott the company if it continues its unlawful anti-union campaign.
“We are prepared to mobilize our expansive base of volunteers to be present in front of every Union Kitchen location to urge your customers to shop elsewhere and we are willing to do so for as long as it takes,” the letter read.
The letter emphasized that a boycott is not the goal, but has proven necessary given the company’s refusal to fairly negotiate a contract. “This is not an action we wish to take. Boycotting Union Kitchen is not our goal. We would much rather be uplifting Union Kitchen to our constituents as a model employer that makes an unmistakably positive contribution to our community. But in order to do that, we must be convinced you are committed to fairly negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.”
A copy of the letter can be read here. Since the letter was transmitted to management last week, additional organizations – including the Washington Metropolitan Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which is the federation of hundreds of local unions in the DC area – have also signed on to endorse the effort.
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United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 is led by President Mark Federici and represents 35,000 members working in the grocery, retail, health care, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. www.ufcw400.org