MANHATTAN — A kosher food distributor has severed its ties to Flaum Appetizing Corp., a Brooklyn-based company that has been embroiled in a workers' rights scandal for years.
Tnuva, the world’s largest kosher dairy company, decided to stop carrying Flaum products after workers’ rights advocates and members of the Jewish community orchestrated a lengthy campaign, slamming Flaum for its mistreatment of immigrant workers, according to officials from Brandworkers International, a workers’ rights organization that spearheaded the protest.
Multiple Zabar’s, Morton Williams and Food Emporium locations throughout Manhattan have already stopped selling Flaum products because of the company’s legal troubles, Brandworkers said.
In 2009, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that the 93-year-old Flaum—known for its kosher pickles, herring and fish spreads—denied some of its employees overtime pay and then fired them when they complained about it. The company has so far refused the judge’s orders to rehire the workers and pay some $260,000 in back wages, reportedly claiming the terminated employees were undocumented immigrants.
"I am happy that Tnuva is showing consideration for the rights of the employees who work hard every day getting their cheeses packed and delivered to supermarkets at a very fast pace," Maria Corona, a fired Flaum employee who has been a prominent figure in the protests, said in a statement.
The fight against Flaum has been led by Brandworkers International and Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox Jewish social justice group.
"Jewish leaders from around the country were proud to join the call for Tnuva to honor the rights of the workers who distribute its cheese to supermarkets," said Ari Hart, co-founder of Uri L'Tzedek. "We commend Tnuva for joining the many other food industry leaders who will not be doing business with Flaum Appetizing until all legal obligations are met.”
In August, dozens of people filled the sidewalk on Lexington Avenue between East 54th and East 53rd streets in front of the offices of Apax Partners, the private equity firm that owns Tnuva, carrying placards and bullhorns and calling for action.
Protesters had wanted to send a delegation of advocates into the company’s offices to speak with its directors about the problems plaguing Flaum. However, just as the delegation was entering the building, they were told that Apax was closed for lunch.
At the time, the protestors vowed to continue their efforts.
“We’ll be back and we’ll be stronger. We won’t take it any longer,” they chanted over and over again, in unison.
Apax did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why Tnuva decided to cut its ties with Flaum.