WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 14, 2023) – The United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 Union, along with a coalition of 20 supporting organizations, will launch a consumer boycott of Union Kitchen stores beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, June 16 unless management agrees to cease hostilities toward the union and fairly negotiate a contract.
The boycott will officially begin with a kickoff event at the Eckington location on Friday:
|What:||Kickoff event to launch boycott of Union Kitchen|
|When:||11:00 a.m., Friday, June 16, 2023|
|Where:||Union Kitchen Eckington, 1625 Eckington Pl NE, Washington, DC 20002|
The boycott was announced at a press conference on June 1. 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 boycott was announced, the company promised to do better. In response, the union gave the company two weeks to take three modest steps to prove they’re serious and avoid the boycott, including reinstating tips and responding to contract proposals and information requests.
“We called on management to reinstate tipping, which they eliminated in retaliation against employees after Union Kitchen was caught failing to pay us our tips. We also called on them to respond to our contract proposals and information requests, which they are required to do under federal law,” said Eric Rosenthal, who works at the 8th Street Union Kitchen location. “But so far, Union Kitchen has refused to take these steps, even though reinstating tipping would cost them nothing and the other two are required by law.”
The union has created a webpage with a countdown clock to the launch of the boycott and a list of ways people can support the boycott. Once the boycott begins, organizers have committed to have a presence at every store to call on customers to shop elsewhere.
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 Union Kitchen 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 on May 25, 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, 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 Union 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