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Nordic Bakery Brod Kitchen Shuts Down Two Locations Amid Union Battle

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The bakery's union claims the closing is just a tactic to avoid negotiations.

Facebook/Brod Kitchen

Both locations of Nordic bakery Brod Kitchen are now closed, not long after the bakery's union launched protests against management for "union-busting" actions. The Upper East Side bakery, run by Monette de Botton and Hugo Uys, had been open as Brod for a little more than a year, while a Greenwich Village location near NYU has been open since the fall. It was previously a bakery called Hot and Crusty.

Despite the shutterings, the union believes that the bakery could reopen, says Rosanna Rodriguez, co-executive director of union Laundry Workers Center, which has been part of the protests and organizing. The employees of the bakery notably battled to unionize in 2012 with different owners, a process that was captured by the well-received documentary film The Hand That Feeds, and the Hot and Crusty owners closed the bakery during that fight, according to reports at the time. Employees picketed the closed store, and eventually, new owners took over the spot and agreed to hire them as union employees. "They believe that [the closing this time] is just a tactic to avoid the union, to destroy the union," Rodriguez says.

Union actions started back in January, bringing dozens of protestors to the NYU location of the shop, according to a flyer from the Central Labor Council and reports from New York University media. The union claims that Brod Kitchen owners told employees on January 14 that they would shut down the Upper East Side location at 1201 West 2nd Ave. on January 15. That would have left just the non-unionized NYU location, at 31 West 4th St., open. The announced closing date also coincided with union contract renegotiations, timing that the union called "a clear attempt at union-busting."

Brod Kitchen did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in early February, de Botton posted an image to Twitter urging people to cross picket lines to eat at the bakery. "Stop this union stealing our jobs!!!!!!!," the flyer reads. "We don't see why our livelihoods should be threatened by an unscrupulous union which seems to care more about intimidation than about workers." De Botton also told NYU News that despite what the union said, management never stopped negotiating with the union. She also told the paper that the NYU location is not run by the same people, a claim that the union says is untrue.

Brod Kitchen employed 19 union people in the Upper East Side, Rodriguez says. The unions are planning several more actions in front of the now-shuttered bakery locations, she says, with the hope that it will again reopen and rehire the union employees. The fight is about more than just the Brod workers, she says: They're representing other immigrant workers as part of unions. "This is a symbol for the labor movement," she says.