No Evil Foods describes its mission as to “put more good into the world.” The North Carolina company started in 2014 when its owners and founders Mike Woliansky and Sadrah Schadel sold plant-based meat products out of a cooler at Asheville farmers markets. Since then, the company sells products with left-wing names like Comrade Cluck (a mock chicken product), the Pardon (a Thanksgiving-season turkey substitute), and El Zapatista, a vegan chorizo whose name is a nod to the revolutionary indigenous movement in southern Mexico.
But earlier this year, the company fought back a drive by employees to unionize its production facility in Weaverville under the United Food and Commercial Workers International union (UFCW).
The union lost handily in a February vote. Over a half dozen current and former employees who spoke with The Appeal described a hostile union-busting campaign, complete with frequent “captive audience” meetings—required meetings billed as “educational” sessions in which management effectively tries to kill organizing drives. Workers who spoke with The Appeal requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation from their bosses.
But a month after production worker Cortne Roche posted the petition online, several pro-union workers and others who had signed it were fired in rapid succession, workers say. Roche, who had been pro-union and helped organize the petition, was fired on April 30, the day after she was suspended for a dress code violation.
Roche and two other workers who’ve been fired in recent weeks told the Appeal that they believe their terminations were retaliatory. “I was told I was terminated immediately and there was no conversation about that,” Roche said. “I’m not stupid.” Roche said she’s filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board; the company currently has two open charges against it for alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act, both of which were filed earlier this month.
No Evil refused to answer specific questions about the firings, including the alleged use of “shadow write-ups”—writing employees up for violations without telling them, and then citing the violations in their firings.
But although No Evil Foods is a much smaller company than some of the meat-producing behemoths it hopes to turn people away from, workers and former workers whom The Appeal spoke with say it has betrayed its progressive branding in the times where it mattered most.
“It’s not in the interest of a company that exploits workers to give those workers any say in the company,” Roche said. “Even a vegan company called No Evil.”
What’s more, when the mandatory anti-union talks were leaked online, the company used bogus copyright challenges to suppress news reporting:
Earlier this year, the vegan-meat company No Evil Foods, which sells socialist-themed products at 5,500 grocery stores across the United States, including Whole Foods, fought a union drive at its Weaverville, North Carolina-plant.
The anti-union campaign led by No Evil Foods management featured a series of compulsory meetings, some of which were recorded by workers on their personal phones, portions of which were published in May by Motherboard and several other outlets, including In These Times, Industrial Worker, and the podcast Dixieland of the Proletariat.
Someone claiming to represent the company now appears to be trying to scrub the internet of these recordings by filing takedown requests on copyright and privacy grounds with the sites on which they’re hosted. Audio of the meeting has been deleted from YouTube, SoundCloud, and the podcast hosting platform LibSyn in recent days. A freelance journalist, Andrew Miller, who published the audio, had his personal website shut down by his web host HostGator on August 27. The takedown requests, several of which were viewed by Motherboard, claim that the speeches the company wrote are copyrighted. One video and four audio recordings—including two full-length podcast episodes that incorporate recordings of the meeting—have been flagged and removed from the internet.
No Evil Foods did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment, and the company blocked me on their official Twitter account. Emailed requests for comment sent to “firstname.lastname@example.org,” the address that filed the complaints, were not returned. On Friday, LibSyn determined that one of the takedown requests was “fraudulent,” meaning that the person who filed it did not have a legitimate copyright claim, according to an email obtained by Motherboard. The episode of Dixieland of the Proletariat was restored because No Evil Foods did not respond to an inquiry about fraud from the podcast platform.
Motherboard spoke to copyright experts who said that under fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law, news outlets likely did not violate No Evil Foods’ copyright by publishing the audio recordings. In the United States, fair use allows the limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder specifically for the uses of news reporting and criticism.
In meetings recorded by workers and published by Motherboard and other outlets, which have since been taken off the internet, the company’s founders Mike Woliansky and Sadrah Schadel utilize standard anti-union talking points, warning their employees that a union would scare away investors, take away their rights, and drain their wages like a “sh%$ty gym membership that you just want to get out of.”
In early August, Motherboard received a notification from YouTube that a video of one of the speeches had received a privacy complaint. The video was subsequently removed; YouTube denied an appeal to leave it up. In recent weeks, SoundCloud has also removed audio of the speeches published by Motherboard and Industrial Worker, citing supposed copyright violations.
Each of the recordings was taken on workers’ personal devices in North Carolina, which requires the consent of only one present person in order to record audio.
In an email complaint to the podcast platform Libsyn about a version of the audio that appeared on In These Times’s Working People podcast on August 24, someone using the email address “email@example.com” claimed that the recording was “Unauthorized” because it included contents “authored” by the two No Evil Foods founders and a hired consultant. The name on the email account is “Rachel Woliansky,” and Soundcloud told Industrial Worker that the inquiry came from “Rachel Woliansky.” (No Evil Foods’ CEO Mike Woliansky has a relative with the same name, according to a public database.) The email address Rachel@noevilfoods.com did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.
“Each clip was authored by Mark McPeak, Sadrah Schadel, & Michael Woliansky of No Evil Foods, respectively,” the person in control of firstname.lastname@example.org wrote. “I hereby state that I have a good faith belief that the disputed use of the copyrighted material is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”
Cory Doctorow, a prominent internet rights expert, activist, and science fiction author, said that companies and other actors have a strong interest in presenting unfavorable coverage as a copyright infringement.
“What if Harvey Weinstein had taken copious notes on his crimes, and then said he had a copyright right on them, and that you couldn’t publish them? This is news reportage and it’s in the public interest to know about it,” Doctorow said. “But there’s a strong interest in presenting this as copyright infringement.”
If you fancy yourself progressive, but that only applies when it does not cost you anything, you are not a progressive. You are a hypocrite.