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Labor Woes: The Ongoing Saga of Wild Edibles

The Industrial Workers of the World announced today that they are filing a contempt of court motion against the seafood purveyor Wild Edibles. Protesters both for and against the company rallied outside the its Murray Hill outpost to voice their concerns with the help of some colorful visual aids. A little background: Last year, 16 warehouse workers filed a class-action suit against Wild Edibles for "withholding pay and retaliating against employees who asserted their rights" and for firing employees who complained or tried to unionize. Over 20 major New York City restaurants including Giorgione, Pastis, Union Square Cafe, La Goulue, Mermaid Inn, and Sushi Samba, have stopped buying from the store since the controversy began.

An injunction was entered in December saying Wild Edibles cannot take any adverse action against the employees that complained. Today, the plaintiffs (backed by the IWW and a non-profit called Brandworkers) maintain that this injunction was violated.

Rallying for the company was a number of employees who argued against joining a union and paying the hefty dues. According to Matt Hovey (buyer for Wild Edibles and employee of 6 years who started entry-level), "If the workers want to join a union, it can be put to an up-down vote, but the Brandworkers' real agenda is simply to put Wild Edibles out of business and to end capitalism."

Danny Abrams said back in February that he respects "the workers rights until the situation is resolved," but added, "I find the whole thing murky regarding their desired resolution." The plaintiffs contend that the restaurants agree with them, while Hovey says the restaurants stopped buying from Wild Edibles because Brandworkers threatened to place picketers in front of the establishments, "a situation no business owner wants."
—Adam Haas