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Call them has-beans.
Three Brooklyn grocery stores are boycotting a Williamsburg manufacturer’s kosher hummus after several factory workers claimed that they were illegally fired and are owed thousands in back wages.
The Associated Supermarket on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope pulled containers of Sonny and Joe’s brand hummus from its shelves last week, joining the Park Slope Food Coop, whose members voted to ban the pita partner last November; and Brooklyn Fare, a Boerum Hill store that stopped carrying it earlier this month.
“The company is not paying the workers,” said Associated manger Alex Alomri. “That’s the reason we don’t buy from them.”
Sonny and Joe’s is one of several brands made by Flaum’s Appetizing on Scholes Street, which has been manufacturing kosher foods since 1918.
Its workers, many of whom hail from Mexico and Central America, have bitterly complained about unkosher working conditions at the factory for nearly a decade.
Company President Moshe Grunhut fired 17 workers after they tried to form a union — and briefly went on strike — in 2008.
The workers sued Grunhut in 2009, claiming they had been soaked and mashed, and the National Labor Relations Board ruled that he owed them $260,000 in back wages — or roughly 65,000 containers of hummus.
So far, Grunhut hasn’t given the workers the money — and the boycott has spread.
Activist Dan Gross is lobbying other grocery stores, such as Fairway and Whole Foods, to drop the brand. He also wants Grunhut to pay up.
“These workers have had their rights violated and we need to recover what’s been taken from them,” said Gross, who likes mustard over hummus as his spread of choice.
A manager for Flaum’s Appetizing said the company is negotiating with former employees and that sales have not dipped.
“It’s a very good product,” said manager Aryeh Silbert, who said he was optimistic about the negotiations. “I believe eventually they’ll take it.”
Flaum’s has many loyal customers, including Williamsburg’s Gary Schlesinger, who declared its smooth, yet well-balanced tangy appetizer the best in Brooklyn.
“[Grunhut] and his family will go the extra mile to help even strangers, so I suggest those who don’t have the hummus locally to walk the extra mile to get their hummus!” Schlesinger told us.
But many Coop regulars have been seduced by Sabra hummus, a Virginia-based company that Coop buyer Lisa Hidem swapped for Sonny and Joe’s.
“The membership prefers the Sabra hummus,” said Hidem. “Even if they ended the boycott, I don’t think I would replace Sabra.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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