August 22 2014
Patrice J. Lee
Unions were formed to protect the rights of workers from unfair, abusive, and even harmful work environments.
A recent incident in Boston demonstrates that some union Teamsters are now the ones creating dangerous and abusive work situations for those trying to get work done.
Apparently, in June while hit TV reality food competition Top Chef was filming on sight at a restaurant outside of Boston, Teamster picketers screamed expletives and nasty threats of bodily harm against the shows female host Padma Lakshmi and the crew of the show. Reportedly, one ran up to her car and screamed “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you [expletive] whore!”
The Teamsters were allegedly physical as well with crew members, chasing them down the street as they left filming, threatening to beat and kill them, and trying to push into the restaurant. And as a parting gift, the film crews found slashed tires on 10 different vehicles.
Hollywood reporting website Deadline reports:
The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, “She was scared,” said a Top Chef crewmember who witnessed the incident,... “He was screaming at her aggressively and violently.”
Angry that the show had not signed a Teamsters contract and that the production hired local PA’s to drive cast and crew vehicles, the dozen or so picketers from Boston’s Teamsters Local 25 kept at it for hours, raining down racist, sexist and homophobic threats and slurs as staffers came to and left the set that summer day. Jenn Levy, Bravo’s SVP Production, wasn’t spared…
John King, Milton’s Deputy Police Chief, said the Teamsters were “threatening, heckling and harassing.”
Numerous calls to Local 25 seeking comment on the incident were not returned, and one of the local’s organizers said he could not speak for the union. Many of those interviewed for this story called the incident the most uncomfortable and threatening labor dispute they’d ever witnessed. No one was injured and no one was arrested, but by the end of the day, more than a dozen of the show’s production vehicles had their tires slashed, and many had their antennae broken off...
“As any employee of our show walked on or off set, the picketers verbally attacked us, calling the gays ‘fags,’ the blacks ‘niggers’ and most of the women ‘sluts and whores,’ ” the crewmember said. “It got worse as the day went on. They chased us down the sidewalk when we had to run from one end of the location to the next in the middle of our busy work day. They threatened to kill us, beat us, and said that they would find us and force us out of the city. Needless to say, we were terrified. I’m a strong person, but being called names and yelled at and harassed for 12 hours while working, I started to crumble. I was scared and worried for my safety.
The Teamsters union denies the account of “Top Chef” crew members:
Teamsters Local 25 for the last eight years has been a vital part in the success of the film industry in Massachusetts. We continue to support the industry and all the jobs that are created directly and indirectly. The Top Chef situation as it is written is fiction at best. As a union, we have the right to lawfully demonstrate and protest the filming of non-union non-Massachusetts workers. We have fought long and hard to protect our members, their livelihoods and will continue to do so. If the allegations were true Milton Police would have taken appropriate action. Again, Teamsters Local 25 will continue to be vigilant and hold employers accountable when it comes to making sure area standards are upheld, but more importantly to respect the workers that are responsible for their success and prosperity.
The union thuggery on display is a result of the show’s producers opting not to hire union workers to produce the show. In Massachusetts unions still have a strangle hold on many industries and distort the labor market by holding wages high. The production industry is no different. However, it’s unacceptable that any company and employees should suffer this kind of violent harassment for choosing not to hire unionized workers. It smacks of tactics that gangs and mobs employ to stay in business.
This kind of bullying and thuggish behavior doesn’t make unions look any too good. And they are already in trouble. Union membership has been on a precipitous decline falling from a peak of almost 35 percent of workers in 1954 to 11.3 percent of the labor force today. Gallup finds that while a majority of Americans (54 percent) approve of labor unions that is down from 72 percent in 1936. More than half of Americans also think the future is bleak for labor unions and episodes