Roberta's Pizza Advertises For Unpaid Intern, Upsets Neighborhood

By Meredith Hoffman on April 8, 2013 4:18pm | Updated on April 8, 2013 4:22pm

BUSHWICK — A request for unpaid interns to tend the vegetable garden of the renowned local eatery, Roberta's Pizza, has sparked outrage and accusations that the Michelin-recognized restaurant is "exploiting" workers to "save a few measly bucks an hour."

The garden growing food for Roberta's recently listed a job posting online seeking interns who would "commit 16 hours a week for two months" for no financial compensation. But the listing prompted such anger that an anonymous resident posted fliers in the neighborhood decrying the "exploitation of workers," as That Greenpoint Blog first reported.

"Roberta's Pizza, the thriving trendy pizza restaurant on Moore Street that has played host to the Clintons among a number of notable guests, is attempting to profit off of free labor of so-called 'interns' in running their kitchen garden," the flier decries of the pizzeria, which has indeed served Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"For having already contributed so greatly to damaging the gentrification of Bushwick, is Roberta's so greedy as to expoit workers and flout labor laws, just to save a few measly bucks an hour?" the flier continues.

The poster refers to a Craiglist ad, which appears to have been removed from the site, but the internship is still listed on other job sites with a request that applicants contact Melissa Metrick, the garden's manager.

"Please be able to commit 16 hours a week for two months," the posting reads. "Compensation is learning how to run an urban farm for a restaurant, being in a very fun environment, working with creative chefs, meeting other urban farmers and getting acquainted with NY's farming community."

The closest thing to financial compensation is "free lunch every time you work (pizza)," the listing notes.

But the creator of the flier — which blogger Heather Letzkus said was posted on Morgan Avenue — said the job listing warranted a "f--- you" to the popular establishment.

"Shame," the flier posts over the printed job listing. "Show Roberta's you won't stand for the continuing exploitation of young workers in the form of unpaid 'internships!'"

When visited at the garden Monday afternoon, the manager Metrick declined to comment on the internship policy, and she routed all questions to Roberta's public relations department. 

Spokeswoman Katherine Wheelock said the business did offer unpaid internships that offered a chance for people to learn about the field of urban gardening.

"We do offer internships that involve working with our head gardener. These internships are unpaid," she said, noting that all the information was available in the internship ad. "Interns sign on — voluntarily — to learn about planting and growing edible plants in an urban environment and to help share that knowledge with the surrounding community by, for example, helping to give educational tours of the garden to school groups."

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