Dozens of union members and affiliated groups gathered outside Bröd Kitchen on the corner of West Fourth Street and Greene Street last Friday afternoon to protest alleged anti-union actions by the restaurant owners and its partners.
Protestors, some of whom were union workers from the former Hot and Crusty and now Bröd Kitchen on 63rd Street and Second Avenue, stated that their bosses were aiming to shut down their Upper East Side location in favor of the nonunionized NYU site.
According to Mahoma López, president of Hot and Crusty Works Association and an employee of the restaurant for over a decade, the conflict goes all the way back to 2012. Back then, workers unionized for better conditions and benefits.
Owners negotiated a contract with the workers before rebranding the restaurant as Bröd Kitchen. As contracts were set to be renegotiated this year, owners said they were considering shutting down the 63rd Street location.
“We’re asking for the most minimum increase in the salaries, and basically they tried to shut down the place because they don’t want to negotiate,” López said.
Despite union requests for the financial information detailing why the 63rd street location was failing, López said workers were not sent anything as a tactic to delay negotiations.
Monette de Botton, creative director and consultant to the former Hot and Crusty for over a year, spoke on behalf of the owners in an interview on Tuesday and disagreed with López’s version of events.
“We never stopped negotiation,” De Botton said. “There was never a moment where negotiation wasn’t occurring.”
De Botton took issue with many of the union’s claims. She denied any affiliation between the Bröd Kitchen on the NYU site and the former Hot and Crusty. Although Hugo Uys, the owner of the previous store and the focus for much of the protest, now acts as a consultant to NYU’s Bröd Kitchen.
“He’s a consultant here, but he is not an owner,” De Botton said. “He does not hold a share. He’s involved in a brand that has the same name, but is not the same company.”
López said the effort to distinguish the Bröd Kitchen on 63rd and 2nd from the one at NYU does not reflect reality.
“They say they’re a different company but they have the same managers and share workers from one location to another, trying to pretend it’s something different when it’s not,” López said.
De Botton said she did not wish to divulge the identity of the current owner of the Greenwich Village Bröd Kitchen for fear of harassment, which she said Hugo and non-unionized workers have endured in recent weeks.
Fliers handed out at the rally were tagged with Hugo’s face and phone number, encouraging supporters to call him to support the workers and to keep the Bröd Kitchen on 63rd Street and 2nd Avenue open.
CAS freshman Sepand Abootorab said bystanders had mixed feelings about the protest, but that he supported their cause.
“I entirely support it. I think it’s important that workers have rights,” Sepand said. “I think it’s important that people do this and their voices are heard.”
Workers and owners, including Hugo Uys, met on Tuesday to continue negotiations.
Email Abraham Gross at [email protected]