70. Vegan Union-Busters Extraordinaire: No Evil Foods w. Jon, Meagan, and Jeremy

Rundown

In this episode, Mexie catches up with Jon Reynolds and Meagan Sullivan, two former No Evil Foods employees who were pivotal in the union drive effort at the company. Jon and Meagan joined Mexie on an episode last summer to discuss No Evil Foods’ union-busting tactics (that episode is listed below). Mexie also speaks with Jeremy, another former No Evil Foods employee who was laid off last month when NEF declared they were outsourcing production and fired all workers without notice or severance. The three talk about this experience, what led up to it, and how they stepped up to support the workers.

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Transcript

F1:  [MUSIC] How can we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how can we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet?

F2:  There’s an us before the wound, there’s an us before oppression, and to me pleasure is the way that we tap down into that.

F3:  We live in capitalism.  Its power seems inescapable.  So did the divine right of kings.

MEXIE:  Hey everyone, welcome to the Vegan Vanguard.  It is Mexie, and following up on our last episode on the union-busting of vegan company Lush Cosmetics, we’re doing a little vegan union-busters mini-series here sadly, because it’s sad that there are so many vegan union-busters that we can make a whole series.  But we’re following up today with workers from No Evil Foods, the vegan food producers who used socialist iconography and messaging to market their products and then proceeded to bust the workers union drive and fire several of them, and recently have just fired their entire staff without notice or severance.  Yay; yay vegan capitalism oppressing and exploiting human animals while not mounting a significant challenge to growing global meat consumption.  Yay.

I will just reiterate from the previous episode on Lush that until the vegan movement understands speciesism as a systemic oppression and understands that animal agriculture as we know it today grew out of white supremacy and capitalism, the mainstream vegan movement will continue to promote false solutions to this problem, namely that everyone should just change their grocery lists while not actually challenging the systems at the root of both non-human and human animal oppression.  It’ll make a lot of money for certain vegan capitalists and as we have seen, it will not be able to meaningfully challenge or work to dismantle the global animal agriculture industry.  I have made videos about this and I will put links in the show notes for more resources.

This is definitely a theme that we talk about a lot on this podcast and it’s why we argue so forcefully for a total liberation perspective that transforms and transcends the systems that oppress us all while destroying our planet, right?  Capitalism as a whole, inclusive of animal agriculture but also other industries, other growth-based industries, is a major driving force of climate change which is a leading cause of species extinction.  It’s great that we have more vegan options today, but we need to think bigger and we need to hold vegan capitalists’ feet to the fire when they are perpetuating exploitation in the name of animal liberation.  Like, that is a no from us and it’s a contradiction in terms.

So, today we have back on the show Jon Reynolds and Meagan Sullivan, two former No Evil Foods workers who helped to organize the union drive and were wrongfully terminated because of this in Jon’s case, and just left in disgust in Meagan’s case.  They joined us on a previous episode that we did last year when that was all popping off, so please check that out.  I have listed that in the description box of this podcast.  It might actually be a good primer to listen to before catching this episode, so you might want to pause and go listen to that first, but we also have Jeremy who is another former No Evil Foods worker who joined the company after the busted-up union drive and who was laid off last month in June of 2021, for anyone listening to this, after July of 2021.

But Jeremy was laid off with all of the other workers at the company without notice or severance pay, just absolutely criminal.  But before we begin and talk to all of these amazing comrades, thank you from the bottom of our hearts to our patrons who make this show possible.  If you would like to become a sustaining member, please go to patreon.com/veganvanguard.  For just $2 per month, you can get access to our Total Liberation Discord server which I co-run with Kathrin and Mad Blender.  We hold community political chats over there twice per month.  Or you can give us a one-time donation via PayPal on our website veganvanguardpodcast.com.  I would like to thank the new patrons Ali, Kurtkruger, Ray, and JHoliday.  We very much appreciate you and we also appreciate everyone who has given us amazing ratings and reviews on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to us.  So, with that said, let’s jump into the interview.

[MUSIC]

JON:  My name is Jon Reynolds.  I worked for No Evil from 2019 ‘til May 1st of 2020 when I was fired for a social — quote, unquote, “social distancing violation”, but the National Labor Relations Board found very different results.

MEAGAN:  I’m Meagan.  I was a major part of the organizing drive back in early 2020, and I also helped organize after that drive was unsuccessful, and eventually left the company in the summer of 2020.

MEXIE:  Mm-hm.  Right, and Jon, you were fired for that perceived infraction largely due to your participation in the union drive as well, right?

JON:  Yes, yeah.  That and helping to organize a petition for guaranteed pandemic hazard pay.

MEXIE:  Yeah, so as I said in the introduction that everyone should go check out the first episode that we did with Jon and Meagan and Cortne about all of that, about the drive, and about all of the union-busting tactics that No Evil Foods busted out despite their socialist branding and themes for their business.  But could you fill us in on what happened since we last spoke?  The last time we spoke, it was basically after the union drive had been busted up and you and Cortne had been wrongfully terminated, and Meagan, you had left the company.  So, fill us in on what’s happened since then.

JON:  This time last year, they were going after us for — or going after the people who were leaking information and leaking audio from the anti-union meetings, and they were trying to claim copyright on this audio, which they didn’t have the rights to.  This is audio that was recorded by workers during their anti-union meetings, and they were basically saying that they had the rights to this audio.  Around this time last summer too what they were doing is they were imitating the social media handles of accounts that were exposing what they had done with the union drive.  So, there’s a Twitter account, @BirdieGregson; they took that Twitter account and they made an Instagram handle with that.  On that Instagram account, what they were doing is they were flooding their own Instagram hashtag.

So, you’d see on the most recent tab under #NoEvilFoods, you’d see just a six-panel or a nine-panel picture of a big Comrade Cluck, and it would knock all of the recent posts down, so if you were looking at that hashtag, you wouldn’t see that.  All you would see is their stock photo of Comrade Cluck.  Then on Twitter they had taken the @SoEvilFoods handle and they put it on — they made a Twitter account with that name, so now they’re on Twitter and they’re just going under every post that’s mentioning hash — or @NoEvilFoods and just saying oh, well, I love this company, this company’s great; here’s all the facts and here’s our website, you can go here.  So, it was kind of — honestly, it was kind of clever, but it ended up coming out later on that the person who was doing all of this was Mike Woliansky, the CEO.

It was his sister.  The reason that we know that is because when they were trying to get the leaked audio pulled from the anti-union meetings, the e-mail address that they were filing these copyright claims under was rachel@noevilfoods which is Mike’s sister, so it was just — it was this really weird kind of desperate attempt to sort of bury everything that was coming out over last summer and at the same time try to suppress the leaked audio and claim copyright on it, which they don’t have any rights to.  That ended up stopping once the Electronic Frontier Foundation found out what they were doing, and they sent them a letter and said listen, you’re exploiting copyright law.  You need to stop.  Knock on wood, since then they’ve stopped because they didn’t really want to have to deal with that.  They knew they didn’t have any rights to it.

MEXIE:  Wow.

JON:  Sorry, that was a — that’s a mouthful, but I mean, yeah.

MEXIE:  That is clever on their part, but I mean, I don’t know, it’s just — yeah.  It’s just really interesting how much effort they went to on that kind of social media war.

JON:  Yeah, and so, like I said, that was just last summer, and then in the fall, the National Labor Relations Board completed their initial investigation and they found merit in me and Cortne’s charge that they had fired us for — they had fired us wrongfully.  They ended up settling out of court with us because I think that they knew that if they went to court, they would have lost badly.

MEXIE:  Yeah.

MEAGAN:  Yeah, another thing that had happened over last summer — and I can’t remember if this happened before or after we spoke to you, but — and it still bothers me to this day because there’s been no correction on it, no investigation into it, no nothing.  VegNews wrote an article or posted an article, published one, about No Evil Foods like the union drive and all the controversy around it, and it was really interesting the way in which they did that because they pretty much allowed the owners Mike and Sadrah to go on there and claim that organizers were extorting them and threatening their family and taking the union money, all these other crazy, ridiculous things that have absolutely no standing in reality.  I don’t know, it just frustrates me because there’s never really been any conclusion to that.

There was no investigative journalism on that end.  Obviously there wasn’t because they would have figured that this — none of this was accurate.  But that was — so, I just found that to be an interesting thing, that the few media outlets that they do talk to, they spread all of these insidious lies that they’re really careful about wording.  They won’t say anybody specifically is extorting them or threatening them; they just say oh, organizers.  So, that’s kind of frustrating.  But then if you jump forward a little bit to — I want to say the beginning of this year, we start getting calls and getting contacted by people who are slowly getting either laid off or fired from the company and seemingly for the same kind of nonsense reasons.  I’m trying to think of an example.

Nothing that was super major that was causing a disruption at work; nothing like that.  So, people were just getting laid off.  I believe that somebody got laid off over being late one day and stuff like that.  I don’t want to be too specific because I’m having a hard time remembering, but people were slowly getting laid off is the point, and getting fired.  It started to kinda raise eyebrows with the people that we were talking to there.  Like hm, are they going out of business?  What’s going on here?  Why are they cutting down the staff so much?  All of that.  Then basically — what was it?  A couple days beforehand or the day beforehand that somebody contacted us?

JON:  Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Well, yeah, I mean, they were contacting us and I think it was around May that I really started to hear that people were getting fired in bunches.  There was a case one day when somebody told me that three or four people had gotten fired in one day and people who were talking about quitting would just get fired on the spot instead of being able to put their two weeks in and that kinda thing.  Then a couple days before they actually announced the layoffs, I got contacted by somebody else who said there’s some big news coming.  We’re all kinda worried about it.

There’s a rumor going around that they’re gonna be closing down.  These people had been asking and, I mean, this is what they’ve told me, but they were asking are we closing down?  We’re hearing rumors about this, and they were constantly reassured that everything was fine.  Then on the 11th of June, that’s when they all came in and they had this meeting and they said hey, look, we’re laying everybody off.  Here’s a flyer for a job fair and a letter of recommendation.  Sorry, thanks, but good luck.

DREW:  [STATIC] I hope you can believe that it’s not a decision that we’re making lightly.  But it is really kinda coming down to whether or not there will be a No Evil Foods in the future at all or not.

WORKER1:  So we get fired so you could stay alive.

DREW:  I think that the…

WORKER1:  We’ve put a lot of hard work into this.

DREW:  You did, absolutely.

WORKER2:  I got a question, too; why everybody didn’t know about this.  I showed up here on a whim.  Nobody even told us.  We heard it from Shore; they got fired.  Why can’t there at least have been an e-mail?  Hey, third shift, show up.  You know?

DREW:  I can understand the frustration.

WORKER1:  [Inaudible].  You said that we had ten years of life built into this.  Gave up a lot to come here.

NEF:  The termination date — yeah, today was a payday but there’s a week of work; you’re gonna get paid for today but…

WORKER3:  Well, thank you.

NEF:  …and what we’ll do is we’ll then run pay on the 25th of June for this week, so you’ll — you have that week of pay on the 25th.

WORKER3:  [Inaudible].

WORKER1:  We don’t get anything else?

NEF:  We do not have money to offer.

WORKER3:  Do the people that were laid off get better…?

WORKER1:  [Inaudible] screw all y’all.  Fuck you!

WORKER4:  I mean, you can’t prove there’s absolutely no money.  Are you gonna get paid, Drew?

DREW:  We have to shutter operations and move them to a co-manufacturer.

WORKER3:  That’ll feed our family.  Thank you.  It’s not just me.  I’m not just worried about me.

DREW:  I understand that.  This was not — this decision did not come easy and we worked very hard to try to find the solutions, but this is a decision between No Evil Foods existing and not existing, period.

WORKER3:  [Inaudible].

WORKER4:  [Inaudible] gonna do if people are fucked up?  It sucks.  [Inaudible].

JON:  It’s exactly the kind of thing that we wanted the union in there to prevent.  If they had the union in there, I really have a hard time believing this kind of a thing would have ever happened.  It makes me think that this is part of the reason they didn’t want the union to begin with.

MEXIE:  Yeah, jeez, that’s so much and yeah, really frustrating to hear about VegNews.  They’re not really known for being the most radical outlet, but it’s really unfortunately that they — yeah, they printed all of that.  So, I guess talk about — for the people that you were talking about — or talking to more recently, had things improved at the company in terms of their working conditions and would you attribute that to all of the organizing and work that you all put in a year prior?

JON:  Just one other point I wanted to make on VegNews.

MEXIE:  Oh, sure.

JON:  VegNews has also — at least as of the time of recording this with you, they have been absolutely resilient on covering these layoffs.  People have been reaching out to them and asking them, tagging them, e-mailing them.  I e-mailed them and I asked them to cover it and I got an e-mail back that said that they’re not going to.  I really have a hard time understanding why a major vegan publication is so against covering a story like this that clearly impacts the vegan community and is so important regarding what’s going on in the — I mean, I’m — sorry, I’m sounding redundant, but I don’t understand why they’re not really interested at covering this at all and why they have the resources to cover a story like what Justin Bieber orders when he goes out for his vegan lunch, but they don’t have the resources to cover an actual story that’s affecting a major vegan company?  It just doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me.  I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that, but…

MEXIE:  I don’t know if they’re — if No Evil Foods is one of their funders or whatnot, but yeah, I don’t usually check out VegNews, but I know it’s a very mainstream outlet that is pretty in line with the whole consumerist vegan approach, which we are not for on this podcast.  So, it’s — yeah, I mean, it’s not terribly surprising to me that they wouldn’t want to touch something like this.  I think they try to be kind of quote, unquote “apolitical” but in that, you are obviously being political.  You’re just not — you’re not being forthright with it, so…

JON:  Yeah.  Now, as far as — what was your question about working conditions up — leading up to the layoffs?

MEXIE:  Mm-hm.

JON:  They still had the hazard pay.  They were still making — from what I understand, they were still making the $17 an hour from when we had pushed the petition and gotten them to do it even though they’ve never really recognized that it was the petition that was the reason they did it.  They’ve kind of curved around it but they’ve never actually officially said it.  Do you have something you wanted to add here?

MEAGAN:  Yeah, just that I firmly believe that most of the things that were positive about that job were things that were only obtained through organizing, whether it be from before Jon and I got there or during or even after the fact, just even the continued organizing that’s been done online.  There was no living wage before they heard — the owners heard of a union drive starting, you know?  They didn’t have healthcare before they learned of a union drive starting.  There was no differential, pay differential, between the shifts until the union drive started, and they were trying to appease the workers out of unionizing.  There was no hazard pay until employees came together to petition for it and thankfully obtained it, which they all deserved it, obviously, working through a pandemic.

This was even back when nobody really knew what was going on as far as covid goes, how serious it was gonna be, all of that.  So, I know that there were tons of people there who love their jobs.  That’s what makes this especially devastating for some of those people, because they built their lives around this place.  Some of these people moved here.  These people worked through the pandemic, some of whom were immunocompromised.  People dedicated their entire lives to this place, and they wouldn’t do that if they didn’t like the work environment or like working there.  But it just makes it especially devastating that a company can treat such employees that are loyal and that didn’t even have a part in the organizing treat them like disposable trash.

Just to give these people no warning — you know, it’s one thing even if you want to assume that everything that this company says is true about the layoffs and that oh, we just ran out of money, we couldn’t do this, whatever.  If you take everything they say at face value, there is absolutely no excuse for not giving these people warning, these loyal employees who risk their lives to make these people money.  There’s just no excuse for not giving them a warning.  It’s also very convenient and worth mentioning the WARN Act; it basically says that you have to give employees — I think it’s — what is it, ninety days or sixty days?

JON:  I think it’s ninety.

MEAGAN:  I think it’s ninety days but it might be sixty days, but basically it guarantees workers to have a heads-up if there’s about to be a massive layoff.  Now, the WARN Act kind of gets circumvented when you cut the staff down to less than fifty people, I believe.  So, it’s just very interesting that they are slowly shaving down their staff over the course of this entire year, and then when the mass layoff happens, they don’t have to abide by the WARN Act and they can do this with a day’s notice, because they’re moving their facility up to Paxton, Illinois with a…

JON:  I think it’s Danville.

MEAGAN:  Oh, Danville?  It’s somewhere in Illinois they’re moving this facility to.  It’s a facility that also is heavily involved with meat manufacturing which is also interesting.  But essentially, they’re moving the company up there but it also — you have to understand you can’t just up and move your company in a day.  That kind of stuff takes planning.  You know this.  You can’t just at the drop of a hat move your company states away.  It just really, really bothers me that they — all of these people were fired so callously and then to be told in return oh, we couldn’t give anybody warning; we didn’t have any warning ourselves.  How did you have this manufacturing facility set up for you?  How did you have this deal going?  You’re telling me that you made that deal in a matter of days?

I just simply don’t believe it.  It’s equally frustrating to me that between Jon and I, we — of course we’re angered by all of this and what happened.  We actually had a fundraiser going throughout the last month.  We were able to raise over $3,000, and it was split up between twelve employees that were hit really hard by the layoff.  These people had families, you know, the whole nine yards.  It also — I guess what just frustrates me is not only could No Evil owners had done this and tried to raise money, we could have — I would have even put our differences aside and collaborated with them.  I said this on some other podcast, and it’s just frustrating because at the end of the day, I mean, it’s really a lesson in understanding that it’s not your employer that’s going to help you.  It’s not companies that are going to help you no matter how radical or vegan or progressive they are.  It’s other people that have to come together, I think is really the takeaway from all of this in my opinion, but I’ll get off my soap box now, I’m sorry.

MEXIE:  No, yeah, no, you’re absolutely right, and that is just absolutely criminal.  I mean, to know that, as you said, they needed to shave down their staff to under fifty in order to get around this law and be able to give nobody any notice, I mean, that’s just…

MEAGAN:  It’s unethical.

MEXIE:  It’s extremely unethical.  So, yeah, they obviously knew for months and months and instead of giving people the time and the option and the courtesy to let them find other jobs and provide them any kind of severance pay, they just did whatever they could to get around that and make sure that nobody — they didn’t have to pay anybody anything and they didn’t have to tell anybody anything beforehand, either.  So, I thought that they — I was under the impression that they were outsourcing production.  I guess I wasn’t sure what that meant, but you’re saying that they’re just moving the company up north, so are they gonna just hire other workers up there, or what does it mean to be outsourcing?

JON:  No, no, no, they’re definitely outsourcing.  They’re going to a third party manufacturer named Paxton Packing which also works with artisanal jerky.  Yeah, they’ve said that they have their own dedicated space, but that doesn’t really change the fact that they’re still working with somebody that produces meat and works and profits from meat, which is an interesting argument to make when — or, it’s not an interesting — it’s an interesting thought because they — also, if you remember from the podcast — the episode we did last year, I don’t know if I mentioned this or maybe Cortne or Meagan did, but they didn’t want to have their workers unionized with the UFCW because the UFCW represents workers at Smithfield.

But when it comes to making money, they’re totally fine with pairing up with a company that profits from meat production if it saves their investors a few bucks.  Another point I wanted to make too about the layoffs — I’m sorry I’m all over the place, but they had — there have been several leaks because I feel like everybody at that company right now is just — or even people who are no longer with the company, but just people there are very unhappy, and completely understandable with the way that they’re conducting business.  I mean, it’s just awful.  But one of the leaks, and you can see it on the So Evil Foods Instagram page, basically was an e-mail from Sadrah of the — one of the co-founders, and she’s talking about — it took them five days from the 11th — and I don’t know what day it was but it was like, five days from the 11th when they sent this e-mail out.

This e-mail is talking points on how to address and how to deal with the controversy about the layoffs.  Meanwhile, they’ve got comments disabled on Instagram and Facebook still as of the recording of this.  They completely just deactivated their Twitter account, so clearly they don’t want to have any honest, open dialogue about this with the public.  They just want to have it through controlled channels.  But anyway, in this e-mail, you have Sadrah on here basically telling the remaining employees who — non-production employees; just office staff and whatnot to approach the layoffs with a lot of optimism for the future about No Evil Foods.  To say something like that is pretty bold.  Then in these actual talking points, they’re talking about how oh, well, we’ve cut our salaries down.

Me and Mike cut our salaries down to $50,000 which is, you know, okay, that’s great.  I’ve never made $50,000 and I’m sure most of your if not all of your production workers never made that much, either.  But you know, you’re complaining about the sacrifice and how it’s hard — it’s — everybody’s made sacrifices and it’s hard for everybody.  Well, you’re making $50,000, assuming that’s accurate.  But you’re making 50k and meanwhile, what are these employees making?  They’re making nothing.  They’re attending job fairs and they don’t have healthcare and they’re struggling to put food on the table now because you didn’t have the — you didn’t have it in you to just give them a heads-up that hey, this was coming, which everything that I’ve heard they knew was coming way in advance.

I had somebody tell me that they were scouting out production facilities as early as several months prior to the layoffs.  That’s coming from somebody that ended up talking with Paul Blest; he’s an investigative journalist.  He actually published the story and he’s the one who broke the story about them going to Paxton, too.  I think it’s on Discourse blog if you want to check it out.  But more recently, there was also a leaked investor deck, basically just — ‘cause I didn’t know what an investor deck was until — I had to look it up.  But basically it’s something that you send to potential investors about your plan for the business.

Last year, No Evil sent out a plan according to this deck and according to the information here, but in this plan they had a three-year plan, like 2021, ‘22, ‘23, and they were planning on starting to outsource manufacturing in 2022, according to this investor deck.  The way it sounds is that they decided to push it back a little bit by a year, so I don’t know what that says.  But it’s kind of interesting.  I know that’s a lot.  There’s a lot to say.

MEXIE:  Yeah, wow, it’s just so much and I mean, it’s clear; as you said, they’ve been planning this for a while and then I guess had to move it up.  But yeah, there’s no reason why people shouldn’t have been notified, other than just naked self-interest on the pat — part of the company.  So, I’ve seen some vegans sharing things about boycotting No Evil Foods.  I mean, I certainly won’t and haven’t been buying anything from them.  Is that something that you’ve seen happen?  Are you kind of pushing for that or are you focusing mostly on the fundraiser?

JON:  Well, the fundraiser’s over now.

MEXIE:  Oh, okay.

JON:  It still — it’ll never be too late for No Evil to start their own.  I mean, I encourage them to start their own fundraiser and do right by their employees.

MEAGAN:  We’ll plug it for them.

JON:  Yeah.  I mean, well, we don’t — we won’t — we don’t…

MEAGAN:  I will.

JON:  …even need to.  They have their — that was what was so frustrating about it; they have their — these social media platforms that are huge.  They could have gotten way more than $3,000 if they had decided to even just create a GoFundMe.  I mean, it costs nothing to start a fundraiser.  But as far as from what I’ve seen in the vegan community, I feel like anytime — I put it like this; nine times out of ten, if a vegan sees what No Evil did, especially these layoffs — I mean, with the union, not everybody is pro-union.  Everybody’s had their different experiences with unions and that’s that, but when it comes to these layoffs, how do you look at that and say oh, yeah, I’m still gonna go out and buy this?

I feel like nine times out of ten, when somebody who is vegan, vegetarian, or just somewhere in-between and maybe they’re just trying to go a little bit more of one or the other, when they hear about this kind of thing, it’s revolting.  They don’t want anything to do with it.  I’ve seen it on Instagram and I’ve seen it especially on Twitter, but on Instagram I’ve seen it where somebody will post oh, hey, I just tried Comrade Cluck for the first time today, and then somebody else will go in the comments and be like hey, did you hear about what they did to their workers with the union drive and what they just did more recently with the layoffs?  Then that person, nine times out of ten, will just be like oh, wow, I did not know about this and this is — I’m never gonna buy this again.

I think that speaks volumes because No Evil Foods isn’t like — it’s not like Amazon in the sense where — it’s a very easy product to just not buy.  I feel like they don’t really have a market on anything where it’s like if you want to go out and buy — if you want to have vegan sausage tonight, you don’t have to buy No Evil.  There’s — how many — I don’t even know how many other brands at this point.  I mean, there’s so many other brands, or you could just go make it yourself.  There’s a billion recipes out there for seitan sausage that you can just make from scratch.  This idea that it’s a very easy product to boycott, and veganism is a movement that’s built on a boycott.  We’re boycotting the meat industry because of their treatment of animals.  If you’re gonna mistreat people too, then I’m not gonna buy your product and I know a lot of other vegans aren’t going to, either.

MEAGAN:  On the subject of boycott, I am full advocate for not purchasing No Evil Foods products.  Back when all of this union stuff started, of course I’m certainly not going to buy any of the products.  I never have, not even when I was working there, but as far as boycotting goes, I’ve been really careful not to say that — specifically that people should not purchase No Evil Foods in the aftermath of all the union stuff just because it’s like well, I still cared about the people that were working there.  If you push for a boycott that not every single worker is on board with or the majority of workers, then those people are gonna be out of a job anyway which is exactly what we didn’t want to happen.  But now that they’ve fired all of those people, as far as I’m concerned, the gloves are off.

You should absolutely not purchase No Evil Foods products.  Again, just my opinion, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until the day I die; when you purchase No Evil Foods products, you are directly contributing to worker exploitation.  It’s as simple as that.  So, if you are against the exploitation of working class people, you don’t purchase No Evil Foods products.  I’m coming from a position of believing that there’s no real ethical consumption under capitalism and I do understand that, but for a company that goes around touting these progressive ideals — you know, a company like Walmart isn’t sitting there pretending that they’re saving the planet.  A company like Amazon is not pretending that they’re saving the planet.

You know, there’s space to argue with that, but for this company specifically, No Evil Foods, they — they’re — they say they’re fighting climate change, that they believe in racial justice.  They use all of these performative kind of angles to market their vegan product, and what they’re really doing is playing on the values of people who actually hold those values, those ethical values.  Again, I fully advocate not purchasing this product.

The employees who broke their backs and worked through the pandemic are not working for these people anymore.  You’re not hurting them when you don’t purchase their crappy product.  I would encourage anybody to pick any other product except for No Evil Foods, until there’s some kind of restitution, you know?  Have them start a fundraiser for the employees that they all laid off with no warning.  Apologize for the disgusting Covid-19 response before they offered the hazard pay after we petitioned for it.  Where’s the apology for these people?  Where is correcting your mistake on this?  Until those things get done, I’d say nobody should buy their crap.

MEXIE:  Yeah, it seems like they’re really shooting themselves in the feet in terms of their business model, right?  Because as you said, they are portraying themselves as a company that is saving the planet, that is using socialist themes and iconography to sell their products.  So, the fact that they didn’t address anything that happened and they didn’t really address any of the activism that was going on, yeah, it could have been a different story, right?

It could have been them learning, growing, admitting their mistake, supporting the union, trying to actually operate — I mean, if they were really into socialism, they would have made the business a cooperative from the get-go, but anyway, it could have been a different story but I feel like at this point it’s gonna be kinda hard to salvage their image.  I guess could you tell us a bit more about the fundraiser?  I know you said that that was over now, but it sounds like it was really successful, and I guess let people who are listening know any other way that they can support the workers.

MEAGAN:  Yeah, the fundraiser itself is just something that I — is just something I created on a whim just being really angry and frustrated.  I don’t think I’ve ever made a fundraiser out of spite before but I mean, that’s really where it stemmed from, and of course wanting to help these people.  These are people with children and families and mortgages and rent to pay.  They just lost their entire income and their healthcare, so I wanted to do something, kind of putting my money where my mouth is, you know?  I just put it together on a whim one day, called up as many people — we contacted as many people as we could think of with as many platforms as we could think of to kinda plug this and get it out there.  We were able to raise just over $3,300.  I think the final number was $3,395 and some change.

MEXIE:  That’s great.

MEAGAN:  Yeah, the way that we did it was we just basically put our contact information on this fundraiser and said reach out to us if you were fired by No Evil Foods through this layoff, because we had a number of contacts there, but we didn’t have the contact information for every single person that was working there at the time that got laid off.  The amount of people who reached out to us to thank us for making it, we were able to — I think the final number that we got to twelve different people was $282.91, I think.  We were able to help twelve people and get them a couple hundred bucks to — for whatever they might need, you know?  You know as well as we do, a lot of people in this country, you miss out on one paycheck, that’ll screw you up for months, depending on what you have to pay.

I’m really proud that we were able to raise that money and get it out to people who needed it.  Honestly, if more workers kept running into an issue stemming from the No Evil thing, I’d start another one but thankfully, I think — as far as I know, most people have gotten new jobs and are moving forward with different employment, which is great.  It’s just really unfortunate that No Evil didn’t take a part in either helping raise money themselves or — ‘cause like I said, I did this all for free.  This didn’t cost me a dime to create and it didn’t cost me a dime to plug it anywhere, so it’s just kind of amazing to me that there was no effort taken on their end.  But as far as helping anybody that was affected by No Evil Foods, stop buying their product.

Don’t give these employers a free pass to just up and move a company whenever they feel like it after crushing a union drive and after being forced to pay their employees hazard pay and then subsequently laying everyone off, circumventing federal law so they didn’t have to warn anybody.  Use your dollars to speak your mind about it, and that’s really all that we can do at this point as far as I know, but I’m — again, I’m always open to ideas.  But that’s the best I got so far.  It’s all a really unfortunate situation.

MEXIE:  Yeah, and I mean, No Evil should have just paid severance pay.  They didn’t even really need to do a fundraiser.  They should have just paid the severance pay that they owed their workers.

MEAGAN:  Yeah, absolutely.  Absolutely.  What’s also really frustrating and insane to me — I’m not even sure if it’s legal — but they — the — a bunch of employees had some accrued paid time off.  You know, you work X amount of hours, you have this much paid time off.  None of them received any of their paid time off that they had accrued.  Some of these people had like, eighty hours.  Some of these people — even if it was two hours, that’s money that they worked for and PTO that they paid for that probably would have helped them through this ordeal and this crisis.  The fact that they didn’t even get that, they didn’t even receive all of the money that they earned is just absolutely wild to me.  It’s like, not only did they not get severance; they lost their healthcare and did not receive any of their accrued PTO.

MEXIE:  Yeah, that’s unbelievable.  Well, thank you so much for all of your activism around this.  It’s amazing what you were able to do with the fundraiser and I mean, you both have been fighting since a year ago for workers’ rights and better working conditions at No Evil Foods.  So, just thank you for all of your activism around this, and I’m sure that a lot of the workers really appreciated your efforts as well.  Is there anything else you would like to add before we leave off?

JON:  I wanted to touch on something that came up earlier as far as the working conditions at No Evil or the way that they were prior to the layoffs.  I just feel like — I liked it there.  There were a lot of things I liked about the job, and I feel like that’s something that pretty much most of us could have said, but the union would — we wanted the union in there to keep it that way and to keep the things that we loved about the job.  I feel like you can like your job.  There’s this, I don’t know, I’m just gonna call it a meme, but it’s like, there’s this idea where it’s like, you have to be working — you have to be peeing in bottles and working eighty hours a week and getting dirt pay and no benefits to want a union at your job.  You don’t have to.  In fact, if you like your job, that’s even — I feel like that’s even more of a reason to unionize, because things will change.

You might like your manager right now, but when that manager quits or when that manager gets fired, or the company decides to move to a — up and switch to a co-manufacturer and not give you notice, things will change and the union is there to give you that level of stability.  I just felt like — I feel like that needed to be said.  Another thought too is just for vegan companies in particular; I really hope that what happened at No Evil Foods acts as a sort of example of what not to emulate.

I really — like, with Impossible getting as big as they are now and Beyond Meat and Field Roast and all these other brands, as the interest in plant-based gets bigger and bigger and bigger, I hope the employees at these companies start unionizing.  I would really like to see more of this and I just hope that people see what happened at No Evil Foods, these companies in particular, but also the workers.  I want the workers to see what happened at No Evil Foods, learn from it, and not repeat our mistakes.  I want the companies to see it and say hey, maybe we’ll go a different direction if our employees want to unionize.  That would be really nice.

MEXIE:  Yeah, that was all very well said and I couldn’t agree more re the importance of unions and that I would love to see that happening at more vegan companies.  That would be amazing.

JON:  Sorry, I just wanted to say also for any other information about this, the So Evil Foods page on Instagram is a great resource, @BirdieGregson on Twitter, and then there’s the No Evil Foods Facebook page and noevilfoods.com.  I just wanted to plug those two.

MEAGAN:  I just wanted to thank you for giving us the space to talk about this not only once but twice now.

JON:  Yes, that too.

MEAGAN:  I feel like it’s really important to talk about this stuff and I’m just so glad that there are people in the vegan community that are willing to talk about the more controversial stuff that isn’t necessarily related to animals but people too, and I think that’s really great.  We really appreciate you.

MEXIE:  Well, thank you so much.  Yeah, I really appreciate all the work that you’re doing and we will absolutely link to all of the links that you just mentioned in the show notes.  Maybe you can both send me an e-mail with some links that you want included, and we’ll put those all in the show notes so everyone can stay up to date.  Yeah, just, again, thank you so much for coming on.  I’m so sorry that this was your experience with this horrible quote, unquote, “socialist vegan company”.  But yeah, thank you for doing all this work exposing what’s been going on and helping the workers, first and foremost, so yeah.

MEAGAN:  Thank you.

JON:  Yeah, thank you.

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JEREMY:  My name is Jeremy and I worked at No Evil Foods for about three months — was my whole tenure there when they decided to lay everybody off.

MEXIE:  So, you came into the picture then obviously after the first union drive had gone down.  What was your experience like working for the company and what was the atmosphere like there — working there after management had received so much scrutiny and public pushback for their union-busting?

JEREMY:  Yeah, actually when I was — during my interview, I asked about that and basically he just — he kinda just — he talked about it but kinda just glazed over as like, it was a few people that were kind of just distraught over personal issues, you know?  It was just — they kinda made it into something else.  I talked to some other workers that worked there and they told me that it was a little bit of a different story.  But I mean, it was really, truly a really nice place to work for me, at least.  It might not be like, exciting podcast stuff, but it’s just true.  They would let me come in and cook whatever food I wanted as long as it was vegan, and they gave me a nice budget and I was paid really well.  They were really flexible with the hours that I needed to work.

I had another job and everyone that I worked with and encountered from the HR people all the way to the production staff that I saw, they were all super nice.  The facility was really nice, everyone seemed decently happy.  It’s a workplace so there’s gonna be gripers and oh, we’re kinda short-staffed or oh, we’re busy today doing this, or you know, just the kinda stuff that goes on in a business.  But overall, everyone seemed pretty happy.  So, that’s kinda when I heard about the union-busting and people were messaging me like, this is a terrible company to work for.  How could you do this, even?  Like, some pretty aggressive messages from people talking about just why — this is a terrible company; you shouldn’t work for them.  Really, I was just like, this — they have been really good to me and as far as I can see, to the other staff that was there.  So, overall, it seemed like it was a pretty decent place to work.

MEXIE:  Mm-hm.  I mean, probably part of that is because they did receive so much scrutiny due to the union drive, right?  I feel like workers probably were able to accomplish a lot of gains, so I’m glad to hear that in general, the atmosphere was a lot better than it was for previous workers.  So, what happened then?  Last month, what happened?

JEREMY:  Yeah.  I went in one day and it was actually one of my days off.  I had just gone in to grab some things and kind of just check on stuff.  I walked in and one of the people that I work with on a day — on a daily basis was in there and she was like, what are you doing?  I was like oh, I just came in to grab some stuff or whatever.  She was like, did you get an e-mail or something?  I was like no, I didn’t get an e-mail or a message.  At this point I’m like, what has happened?  What is going on?  She was like oh, you should go talk to somebody.  Then I was like oh my gosh, what in the world?  So, I went and found someone and I was — I went and found Drew from HR and he was having a meeting with someone else.  I kinda just opened the door and was like, what’s going on?

I hear I — I’ve been hearing that there’s something going on.  I’m not even supposed to be here today but I just figured I’d talk to you and see what was up.  He was basically just like, I’ll get with you a minute.  So, I went back and just kinda hung out, and then he came and talked to me.  He was just like, we really tried to — we didn’t want to have to do this but we have to close down and we have to — we’re going to a different sort of model where we’re gonna outsource the production and pretty much just close down this facility, this plant.  I was like man, I was like, that’s surprising, you know?  I had no idea.  It was like, today, this is what’s happening.  Basically here’s your letter and it was really nice to work with you.

He was very professional about it, just like, get whatever stuff you need and return the laptop as soon as you can, ‘cause they gave us a company laptop.  Basically it was like, you know — he also said that he would like to continue to work with me in the future.  I had been working on some projects with them in the very beginning stages of — just photoshoot stuff and working on plating up these dishes for photoshoots.  He had expressed a little bit of a desire that they wanted to keep me there and to do that at least on a contractual basis.  I was like, okay.  I was like yeah, whatever.  I mean, that’s — whatever.  As it turns out, that never happened.  I never heard from them again.

When I went and turned in the — went and turned in the laptop, I saw Mike and he was all real apologetic and just real — so sorry, and I hope to continue to work with you in some way and blah, blah, blah, but never — I never heard from him again.  Yeah, so, that’s — I mean, that’s pretty much what happened one day.  It’s crazy ‘cause they had been talking to me about when I had first signed on and even after that doing marketing stuff with them and really kind of growing with the company as this chef, you know, who would go and do different food shows and stuff like that.  I feel like they had to have known that it was going — maybe if they didn’t know specifically just how dire the circumstances might get that they would at least probably know — have some inkling of what was going on.  They just — there was just not any heads-up whatsoever about that at all.

MEXIE:  Yeah.  Yeah, well, it must have been shocking and pretty upsetting, obviously.  So, you weren’t there then for the meeting that they held where — I think I read that…

JEREMY:  Yeah, I had left ‘cause I was there a little bit earlier and they were like, we’re gonna have the meeting.  He said I didn’t have to stay, but before that I had heard that there was gonna be a meeting at 1:00 and that it was a — and I was like, I’m not gonna — there’s no — I already know what’s — you know?  I [inaudible].  I’m gonna go about my day.  I don’t need to sit through this meeting.  Yeah, I didn’t stay for that.

MEXIE:  Yeah.  Did you hear from other workers how that went?

JEREMY:  No.  I haven’t talked to really anybody that worked there.  A few people found me on Facebook and Instagram that I had worked with, a few of the production people, but I haven’t really spoken to them.  I’ve read accounts of what had happened but no, I haven’t heard direct accounts.  I think that the way that they — and some of the things that I’ve read about this has said that they purposefully laid off a number of people after I started.  Maybe like, oh, two weeks or so or something like that after I first started, the numbers of the production staff went way down.  So, I had heard that the — that’s one of the ways that they skirted it.  I think that there’s a minimum amount of employees that you have to have for that law to be applicable.  I think that you have to have at least fifty or something employees in order to be bound by law to give them severance and some sort of notice or something like that.  I think that’s the way they skirted it.

MEXIE:  Wow.

JEREMY:  Yeah.  So, I don’t know — there’s — there hasn’t been any recourse.  People have been mostly trying to take care of the production staff, like GoFundMes and stuff that people could donate to, but as far as any legal actions, I don’t think that there’s any — an avenue for that.

MEXIE:  Would you say that there’s any way that people listening can support the workers and their struggle other than fundraising or is that mainly the avenue?

JEREMY:  Yeah, I would say that that is really it.  I got to know a lot of the people that worked there, the production staff that worked there, and they were just super nice people and I felt really bad that it went down like that.  For myself, I had another job that actually closed down two weeks after the No Evil one, but…

MEXIE:  Oh, no.

JEREMY:  …I was feeling — I was in a decent spot where I wasn’t freaked out.  I was like, I can just go work at my other job and some savings or whatever, and it’ll be fine.  But I know that a lot of those people, really, they were just like paycheck-to-paycheck people just trying to work and get by.  I hate how they got blindsided by that.

MEXIE:  Yeah, I hate that too.  I was just reading about it today and was reading about the meeting that they held and how basically — I guess the owners or the management were crying and all apologetic, but the workers were obviously incredibly upset and told them where to shove it because they had no notice, right?  As you said, I’m sure that there was some inkling that they had that this would be coming down the pipeline.

JEREMY:  Yeah, exactly.  It’s one thing — like, I totally understand; you’ve got a business and you’ve gotta look out for the business, right?  I totally get that.  But there’s a point where, especially when you have this ethos of like, people over profit or this sort of mentality of the grassrootsy sort of socialism almost vibe to everything that they were about, to not give anybody any sort of option or not give anybody a heads-up in any way is really the only thing that I can fault them.  I can’t fault them for trying to keep the business going, you know?  But let people know.  Give people the option to be like alright, I’m gonna try and find another job.  If it means that you will lose workers for that amount of time, then that’s — you gotta suck it up and take that hit ‘cause that’s — those are your people, supposedly, you know?

MEXIE:  Yeah, yeah, ‘cause I was reading as well that there was a lot of talk about it being a family and we’re a family and we’re doing this, we’re helping the world, we’re helping to solve the environmental crisis, we’re — so, it’s really unfortunate.

JEREMY:  Totally, and that’s really — yeah, it’s crazy.  Really, that’s — that — I’m not trying to — I haven’t this whole time been bashing them as people or whatever.  I get it, you know what I mean?  It’s tough.  It’s tough out there, especially after this past year.  It’s really difficult, but you gotta do what you can to — you gotta do right by people, essentially, you know?  You gotta do right by them, and — especially when that is your whole thing.

MEXIE:  Yeah, especially as a vegan company because you gotta care about the human animals as well as the non-human animals.

JEREMY:  Yeah.

MEXIE:  Yeah.  Well, thank you for sharing that.  Is there anything else you want to add?

JEREMY:  No, I think that’s really all.  It really was just — it was a — I really enjoyed that job.  It sucks that it went away.  Like I said, I don’t — I really don’t want to badmouth the owners or the managers or any of those people ‘cause they were all super nice to me.  It was just these last sort of — this — the way that they kinda went about sneakily and quietly making these moves.  I don’t think it’s super nice.

[MUSIC]

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