By Bill Parry
Tom Cat Bakery has challenged an article in TimesLedger Newspapers last week that two highly rated Manhattan restaurants, The Spotted Pig and Le Bernadin. have halted purchases from Long Island City-based artisanal bakery in response to a call from current and former workers demanding the company adopt simple protections and fair severance for 20 immigrant workers fired in April. The immigrants were terminated when they could not produce adequate working documents after Tom Cat Bakery management had been subjected to an audit by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
As members of a non-profit organization called Brandworkers, the fired workers decided to reach out to the bakery’s customers after they claimed the company failed to keep its commitment to negotiate with workers in the wake of the audit.
A Tom Cat Bakery spokesman said, “While we are not providing product to The Spotted Pig at this time, it has nothing to do with the Brandworkers protests and campaign against our company.”
The Spotted Pig and Le Bernardin could not be reached for comment.
Tom Cat Bakery maintains it had no choice but to terminate the workers in April and they say severance pay was provided.
Brandworkers claimed that after a letter-writing campaign by the terminated employees, Le Bernadin, an old guard French restaurant became the first customer to stop buying from the bakery in September. The spokesman for Tom Cat Bakery management said that Le Bernardin had suspended deliveries from Tom Cat due to the Brandworkers campaign.
“While we could not legally resist the Department of Homeland Security and its random audit of our business and employee records, we were determined to do all that we could to help our employees,” Tom Cat Bakery management said in a statement. “In the wake of the audit we sat down with their union, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 53 — which has represented our employees for more than a decade — and together came up with a severance offer that included everything the union asked for. We took these steps because we knew they would be critical to protecting our employee’s well-being.”
The spokesman for Tom Cat Bakery added that Brandworkers’ claim calling for “fair severance for 20 immigrant workers” is also misleading.
“In fact, 13 of 21 workers affected by the 19 audit accepted the severance agreement Tom Cat negotiated with their union, Local 53. The correct number of workers seeking continued negotiations is 8,” he said. “The public has the right to know the facts, that includes Tom Cat Bakery’s promise to rehire any of the former employees affected by the 19 audit as soon as they provide the employment information they are required to have by law. One employee has already done so and returned to their job at the bakery.”
Brandworkers could not be reached for comment.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr