Amy’s Kitchen Boycott: An Interview with Food Empowerment Project

Boycott Amy's

A few days ago, we here at Freezer Meal Frenzy brought attention to the current boycott of Amy’s Kitchen and promised to stand with the workers. We provided a few resources for anyone who wants to learn more about it, but we’re pretty sure a lot of folks still have some questions about what’s going on.

So we reached out to Food Empowerment Project to try to learn more. Alejandra Tolley, Food Empowerment Project’s Communications Specialist, was gracious enough to give us some very detailed answers to all of our questions. We’re posting our entire email conversation below.

Oh, and a note to our regular readers: We are suspending our reviews for the weekend, but we’ll be back on Monday.

Okay, on with the interview!

Could you tell us a little bit about the Food Empowerment Project’s mission?

Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) advocates for veganism through an ethical lens that includes the animals, human rights, and the environment equally. As a vegan org, it’s imperative we recognize the commonalities between various issues and fight against these oppressions altogether. One of our main focuses is bringing awareness to workers’ rights, whether farm workers, agriculture workers, or factory workers. It’s important to reiterate that just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s cruelty-free.

How did the Food Empowerment Project get involved in the action regarding Amy’s Kitchen?

In late 2021 we were told about issues coming to a head at Amy’s Kitchen and some of the issues taking place by the labor union, Teamsters. As the only vegan organization involved, we knew we had a unique and necessary position to stand in solidarity with the workers and bring others on board. Additionally, this issue hit close to home because F.E.P. is a member of North Bay Jobs with Justice based in Sonoma County where we used to be located.

By 2022, we had moved to San José, where the other workers were organizing with Unite Here!
We have been privileged to hear from workers from both facilities and stand in solidarity with
them and their bravery.

Many of our readers are big fans of Amy’s Kitchen, but this might be the first time they’ve heard anything about the company’s working conditions. Can you give us some specifics about Amy’s Kitchen’s history of exploiting workers and creating an unsafe working environment?

Like many people, we were completely shocked when the news surfaced about Amy’s Kitchen workers. We were supporters of the vegetarian food company not only because of their affordable and tasty products, but because they marketed themselves as fulfilling a social responsibility. When we learned that wasn’t true, we knew we had to stand with the workers and follow their lead.

Amy’s has faced over $100,000 in fines for serious workplace safety violations. F.E.P. has spoken to workers from Amy’s Kitchen’s San José and Santa Rosa plants. Workers from both facilities shared what their current experiences have been like on a daily basis and what we heard was appalling.

Workers shared that they were denied bathroom breaks, verbally abused by general management, and have also faced sexual assault. At the Santa Rosa plant, workers shared that emergency exits were blocked.

In terms of working conditions, many workers are required to maintain a speed of rolling 14 burritos a minute. As a result, workers are left with swollen wrists, ripped tendons, arm surgeries, and chronic pain. This constant repetitive movement is not only causing devastating harm to workers, but they are not granted time off to address their physical concerns.

Can you talk a bit about Amy’s Kitchen’s anti-union efforts, and how that has affected this situation?

Amy’s Kitchen has retained the services of Quest Consulting, a notorious union-busting firm, for both Santa Rosa and San José facilities. After workers in San José formalized their intent to unionize, they were suddenly laid off on July 18, 2022. Over 300 workers were left jobless with no warning. Despite Amy’s Kitchen stating it was due to economic reasons, on-site renovations were happening at the plant.

We also heard from workers that union-busters would attempt to divide workers by encouraging them to wear different colored t-shirts to designate who is in support of the union and who is against it.

How has Food Empowerment Project been helping Amy’s Kitchen employees get the respect and conditions they deserve?

  • In February, Food Empowerment Project and impacted workers called for a boycott of Amy’s Kitchen products. This call to action led to multiple food co-ops pulling Amy’s products, including People’s Food Co-op and Alberta Street Co-op in Portland. By doing this, we are calling attention to the mistreatment of Amy’s Kitchen workers and continuously pressuring the company to listen to their workers.
  • Also in February, F.E.P. attended a press conference organized by Teamsters in Petaluma, CA where we encouraged grocery shoppers to boycott Amy’s products. Santa Rosa workers were also present and spoke about their workplace experiences.
  • F.E.P. launched What’s Going On at Amy’s? on their website, where supporters can read past and current developments on the campaign. It also includes different resources on how supporters can amplify the boycott and do their part in pulling Amy’s products at local food co-ops.
  • On August 2, after the sudden closure of the San José facility in F.E.P. and Unite Here! organized a press conference in front of Amy’s San José plant. This was right after the announcement of the sudden closure of the facility that left over 300 workers jobless. Impacted workers, local officials, and labor leaders were invited to speak.
  • On November 15, 2022, F.E.P. led an organizational letter delivery at Amy’s Kitchen headquarters. Dozens of community organizations and vegan groups signed onto our letter in support of the workers. Workers from both San José and Santa Rosa plants were also present. We also demonstrated the line speed required at Amy’s by having a burrito wrapping station where we asked two local city council members to try rolling 14 burritos in a minute. They could barely assemble four altogether.
  • Since the boycott started, we have maintained a constant presence on social media, highlighting the importance of supporting the workers. Our boycott have been mentioned in several media outlets From Forbes and Eater to The Washington Post.

Here at Freezer Meal Frenzy, we’ve decided to stop publishing any new reviews of Amy’s Kitchen products until there’s a satisfactory resolution to this situation. From your perspective, what does a satisfactory resolution look like?

Thank you for your commitment to stand in solidarity with the workers. This is a huge step for their fight to move forward. Our boycott continues and we will continue supporting the workers until their demands have been met. This includes fair pay, reliable healthcare, and improved workplace health and safety.

For our readers, what are some steps the average person can take to assist in these efforts? Do you think encouraging a boycott is enough, or are there additional steps people can take to keep the fight going strong?

Earlier this year, F.E.P. launched our What’s Going On At Amy’s? page. Supporters can see what types of calls to action they can do independently. We have a social media toolkit to keep raising awareness online, contact information to email Amy’s directly, and an email template on how to reach out to your local food co-op to pull Amy’s products. We encourage supporters to keep sharing our posts online and continue to spread the word in person as much as possible.

How can we stay up to date on the situation as it progresses?

F.E.P.’s monthly E-Newsletter mentions updates on the campaign and what we’re doing to move the fight forward. We also share any developments across our social media channels.

If you would like to be added to our newsletter, please fill out the form here.

And to build on our previous question: Where can we go to find more resources and information about this?

Along with having resources to help move forward the campaign, our What’s Going On At Amy’s? page shares past and present articles on developments of this issue.

Thank you so much for your time and your efforts. It was a joy to hear from you, and we think that it’s very important to get this information out to the world.

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Lindsay
Lindsay
2 months ago

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this and helping spread awareness and promote activism. FMF, ya’ll are awesome 🧡

George Geschwend
George Geschwend
29 days ago

Did not know this… it’s like someone from Nestle is running show there. Thanks for the information.

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