If you pull up the Instagram account for No Evil Foods, a vegan, plant-based meat-product company, what greets you is a wall of posts in solidarity with the ongoing racial justice protests sparked by the police murder of forty-six-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis. The company seems particularly drawn to variations of “Silence is Violence,” as one of their most recent posts reads.
Social justice is No Evil Foods’s brand. Founded in 2014, the company, whose products are now sold by 5,500 retailers, is “the fastest-growing meat alternative in conventional stores,” according to Sadrah Schadel, who, along with Mike Woliansky, started the company. Representative of their left-wing branding are products like El Zapatista, a vegan chorizo product, and Comrade Cluck, a vegan chicken product. Their website describes the company as “revolutionary” and “socially conscious.” “No Evil,” after all — they’re good people.
But if you ask No Evil’s workers what they think about the company, they say Schadel and Woliansky are union-busters.
“They’re pretending they’re allies of leftist causes,” says Jon Reynolds, an ex-employee of No Evil who was among several workers that were fired shortly after helping lead organizing efforts to form a union among the company’s workforce.
“I thought I could have something resembling a career with this company,” says Reynolds. “It feels so naive thinking about it now.”
No Evil told Reynolds he was fired for social-distancing violations, something that other workers say was a pretext for retaliating against him for organizing. Reynolds noted how other companies, such as Amazon, have used social distancing violations to target organizers. Another leader in the organizing efforts, Cortne Roche, says she was fired for dress code violations — she was told her pants were “too short” — but she too sees this as retaliation for organizing.
“I think they are full of shit,” says another ex-employee who was involved in the organizing drive and was recently fired. “It is a huge red-flag when a company uses this much left-wing imagery and has a turnover rate as high as they do.” “The owners of this company are faking progressive values harder than they are faking meat,” they added.
As first reported in Industrial Worker, the Appeal, and Vice, when No Evil’s workers recently sought to unionize the company’s Weaverville, North Carolina plant, backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the cofounders held captive-audience meetings, urging their employees to vote no in the union election.
In recordings provided to Jacobin, No Evil management can be heard telling workers that the UFCW may not take harassment “as seriously as we do” and discussing union corruption at length. In response to a worker’s frustration at the captive-audience meeting, management responds that they are simply trying to provide “balanced” information and “facts,” as they “don’t know what information [the union] is giving” workers.
Workers say these meetings lasted up to two hours and were held as many as three times a week in the time leading up to the union election, which ended with a 43-15 vote against joining the UFCW.
Workers who are still at the company describe the effect of this anti-union campaign as chilling.
“People are afraid,” says Meagan Sullivan, who quit her job at No Evil this week. Petitions to reinstate the fired employees have been circulated, as has a petition to make a hazard pay bump permanent, but workers fear signing their names. Says Sullivan: “People see the petitions and say, ‘I agree with all of this, this is great, I support what you’re doing, but I can’t sign this, I’m afraid and I can’t get fired.’ So people have done a really good job of shutting down the organizing movement.”
“Every day I walked into work and expected to be fired,” says Sullivan when asked if she feared retaliation for her role in organizing. “It takes a special brand of evil to blatantly fire organizers after crushing any sort of organizing drive.” Reynolds and Roche have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board for wrongful termination — these cases are pending.
“I just want them to do the right thing,” says Sullivan. “They could turn around tomorrow and say, ‘maybe we went about this union drive the wrong way. We don’t want people to feel targeted, we don’t want people to feel unwelcome here.’ But I guarantee you they will never do that.”