Workers shut down luxury butcher shop after investor demands removal of BLM and Pride signs
We’ve all heard reports of restaurant and service industries struggling to find workers who are willing to come in amid a global pandemic.
We’ve covered stories of workers taking a stand and quitting, too, like the Burger King workers who alleged unsafe conditions and went viral after putting up a banner announcing their resignation. Most recently, several dozen employees at a luxury butcher shop, Fleishers, participated in a walkout on July 23. This walkout led four store locations in the tri-state area to temporarily close. Why the walkout? The company’s leading investor directed the CEO to remove all signs supporting LGBTQ+ folks and Black Lives Matter from storefronts, as reported by Eater. And workers weren’t having it.
According to former workers, Robert Rosania, Fleishers’ top investor and a real estate developer based in San Francisco, California, called CEO John Adams and told him he had received a text from a friend who was offended by a Black Lives Matter sign hanging in the window of one of the store locations. These workers claim Adams personally removed two signs that same day after workers refused to take them down themselves, and removed the third sign at a different location the next day. Workers, many of whom are people of color or openly LGBTQ+, were horrified.
According to Patch New York, Adams returned the signs within 24 hours and sent workers photos to prove it, but the staff had already banded together.
There are Fleishers locations in both New York City and Connecticut. In New York, they are located in the Upper East Side and in Brooklyn, and in Connecticut, stores are located in Greenwich and Westport.
Divone Thompson, store manager at a Connecticut location of the shop, told Brooklyn Magazine that Adams told him in person that if he didn’t remove the signs, he wouldn’t get fired, but Rosania would be “upset.” Thompson told the magazine he experienced racism from customers while working at the shop and felt the signs served as a “shield” for himself and his colleagues. He said no one had complained about the signs during his time there, and that some customers even took pictures.
"I don't feel safe coming into work because you didn't do that,” Ajani Thompson (of no relation to Divone) explained to Forbes in an interview in reference to attempts from Adams, who has been CEO for just a few months, to gain employee trust. Thompson told the outlet he was the only Black employee at the Park Slope, Brooklyn, location of the shop.
“It’s messed up to think of someone as less-than and then want them to provide for you,” Thompson added to the outlet, noting he resigned right away when walking out of the job, but some employers are waiting to technically be fired.
Rosania sent an internal letter to workers on Aug. 2 with an apology for the removal of the signs. “I realize removing the signs that express support for the basic human rights of our black [sic] and LGBTQ [sic] employees, and customers was not in that spirit of supporting your feelings, along with a longer-term lapse in communications as we’ve gone through growing pains,” the letter reads in part.
According to Forbes, the store is still trying to rehire workers. But employees aren’t satisfied.
“We were doing what we loved,” a former employee who spoke to Brooklyn Magazine on condition of anonymity explained. “But when you tell a significant part of your workforce that they basically don’t matter, we’re not going to put up with that. That’s not a company that we’re willing to fight for.”
As of the time of writing, the company’s website lists all store locations as “temporarily closed.” A sign at the Upper East Side location says the store won’t open again until the end of August at the earliest.
And if you’re curious what a luxury, high-end butcher shop is like, this brief video features the Greenwich location where an employee breaks down what sort of service they provide.
Working at a butcher shop is obviously a little obscure compared to, say, teaching or being a health care worker, but one thing is for sure: Workers have power, and when they band together, big changes can happen.