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Tnuva drops Brooklyn distributor following labor campaign

JTA

November 14, 2011 | 3:45 pm

Tnuva, Israel’s largest dairy company, said it will not renew its contract with its Brooklyn distributor, which is accused of underpaying workers and firing employees illegally.

A campaign by organized labor and Jewish groups had urged Tnuva to break from Flaum Appetizing, which distributes the Israeli firm’s cheese in the United States and also produces hummus.

The National Labor Board ruled in 2009 that Flaum abused workers by paying them below minimum wage without overtime and firing workers who complained about workplace conditions.

The ruling ordered that Flaum pay $270,000 in restitutions. Flaum has appealed, arguing that it is not obligated to pay back wages to undocumented immigrants. According to Flaum officials, Tnuva accounted for less than 20 percent of the distributor’s business.

“This is an important step,” Ari Hart told the Daily News. Hart is founder of Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox group that encourages “ethically kosher” or “yosher” products. “I think Tnuva heard loud and clear the voices of kosher consumers and Jewish leaders.”

In August after a protest led by Uri L’Tzedek, Tnuva USA issued a statement to JTA saying that the company had “received assurances from Flaum’s management that Flaum ... abides by all legal requirements,” and urged Flaum to “act judiciously and fast to solve their internal matters.”

In June, a nationwide boycott of Tnuva’s goods in Israel prompted the food company to reduce the price of cottage cheese by 20 percent.

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