On Friday, a self-described socially conscious vegan food
manufacturer in North Carolina
laid off its entire production staff, infuriating employees who said the lack of notice and severance pay was inconsistent with the company's stated values.
A source provided Stardia with audio of the layoff announcement at No Evil Foods, which showed stunned employees yelling back at company leaders who delivered the news
“So we get fired so you can stay alive?” one worker asked the company's CEO
, Mike Woliansky, as Woliansky explained that the facility would be closed.
After the company's human resources chief, Drew Pollick, explained that they would be paid for Friday's work but nothing more because "we're out of money
," several employees expressed their disbelief.
Workers were heard yelling "fuck you!" and "screw all of y'all!"
“You can't tell me there's no money,” said one.
“They got a better deal
, the ones who screwed up,” one worker added, presumably referring to the company’s management.
No Evil Foods, based in Weaverville, north of Asheville, did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Sunday.
They preached all of this, but when it came down to it... they were ruthless.
Mike Rapier, a No Evil Foods employee, was laid off.
Woliansky stated during the meeting that No Evil Foods was counting on a new infusion of cash that had recently fallen through, and that the pandemic
presented a number of challenges for the company, and that leaders had decided to move to a co-manufacturing model rather than having its own dedicated facility.
“The reality of the situation is that the company has essentially run out of money, and we are now really forced to make some really big, really difficult changes,” he said in the audio obtained by Stardia. “It comes down to whether or not there will be a No Evil at all.”
In an interview
with Stardia, Mike Rapier, one of the workers who spoke up during the meeting, said that the company's leaders deserved all the backlash. No Evil Foods describes itself as a purpose-driven food manufacturer, seeking to address "food insecurity, economic justice, and climate change
" through plant-based options.
Rapier stated that company leaders frequently referred to the workforce as a family, which is why Rapier, a production employee, expected more than a recommendation letter and a leaflet advertising an upcoming job fair.
“We would have big monthly meetings about core values and family and respect and saving the world,” Rapier said, adding that he did not make the audio recording. “They preached all of this stuff, but when it came down to it... they were very, very cutthroat.”
Companies are generally not required to provide severance pay unless a contract requires it. Employers are sometimes required to provide 60 days or more notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act or similar state laws, but the mass layoff at No Evil Foods appears to be small enough that the law does not apply.
Rapier estimated that between 30 and 50 workers were laid off on Friday, though he added that others were laid off earlier in the year, as first reported by Insider.
Workers have accused No Evil Foods of failing to live up to its socially conscious image before. Last year, the company fought back hard against a union drive, holding captive-audience meetings and urging workers to vote down the effort with the United
Food and Commercial Workers union. When audio of those meetings was posted on the internet, the company made legal efforts to have them removed.
The company fired two workers involved in the organizing effort, claiming they had violated the facility's social-distancing rules. The two workers, Jon Reynolds and Cortne Roche, accused the company of illegal retaliation, and the National Labor Relations Board
's general counsel pursued a complaint. As Jacobin recently reported, No Evil Foods settled those claims by paying Reynolds and Roche $20,000 each.
Rapier said he liked working at No Evil Foods because he eats meat and doesn't believe in the company's plant-based-foods mission, but he thought it was a good job and liked his coworkers. He left Ace Hardware a year ago to work at No Evil Foods.
According to Rapier, the company recently invested in equipment that did not suit its production well, resulting in frequent shutdowns, and he had a feeling business
was not going well. However, Rapier assumed that given No Evil Foods' mission, the company would try to give employees a softer landing.
“They talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk in terms of their philosophy, and they just dumped us,” he said, adding that “this kind of upheaval is not right, the way they went about it.”
Rapier, 59, said his health insurance
through No Evil Foods expired on Friday, and he's not sure if he'll be able to find coverage he can afford. Rapier said he plans to attend the job fair.