Chef Eric Ripert’s esteemed Midtown seafood restaurant Le Bernardin will no longer be offering goods from Tom Cat Bakery in the restaurant — a move after former employees of the bakery launched an immigration protest against the company.
Long Island City business Tom Cat faced protests earlier this year after more than 30 of its longtime staff were flagged by the Department of Homeland Security for not having legal immigration papers. They were told to get papers or get fired, and most of them had to leave the company.
Now, the employees and activist group Brandworkers want Tom Cat to offer more protections to immigrants in the future, including severance and new labor policies. They have been asking restaurants like Le Bernardin to boycott the bakery and draw attention to the issue — telling the restaurants that Tom Cat had “cooperated with the Trump administration and terminated them after more than a decade of working at the bread factory,” according to a statement from Brandworkers.
The restaurant agreed, and activists protested at Columbus Circle restaurant Robert instead. They’re also pushing for the Park Slope Food Coop to stop buying bread from the bakery.
Le Bernardin did not immediately respond to an inquiry on how many products they were buying from the bakery.
Immigration is still one of the most sensitive topics since Donald Trump won the presidency, particularly in the restaurant industry, which employs a critical mass of immigrants.
Tom Cat’s audit happened in January during the Obama administration, though the list of employees without legal papers came in March. An attorney for the bakery told Crain’s that Tom Cat gave employees “a generous offer” for their departure and “no employer would have done more for their workers.”
The bakery has been in Queens since 1987. It sells to restaurants across the city, and activists plan to keep encouraging more restaurants to boycott the bakery until more immigration protections are in place.