Carpetbagging Protesters Stalk Jack the Horse, Again (and AGAIN!)


Brandworkers leader and carpetbagger Daniel Gross disrupts the quiet enjoyment of Hicks Street residents

Update: The protesters returned AGAIN tonight at 6:20pm
The Brandworkers International protesters were back out at Jack the Horse yesterday evening, handing out literature about the ongoing workers’ rights litigation at the Tavern’s fish supplier, Wild Edibles.

Jack the Horse chef/owner Tim Oltmans tells BHB that the group seemed “more hostile” this time, when they arrived at 6:45 on Thursday evening. One protestor, a fired worker from Wild Edibles, allegedly did not move away from the restaurant’s front door, and supporters were “a little more in people’s faces” with their literature, he said.

We caught up with the union’s executive director, Daniel Gross, today, who said he and the cause’s supporters have no plans to back down, despite Wild Edibles’ claims that a settlement is imminent.

“Negotiations have been going on on and off for now almost two years,” Gross said. “The workers are unable to just rely on the other side, they need to speak directly to folks who are consuming the products.”

But is their message getting through to the customers?

Oltmans said diners told him they were unclear as to what the actual issues were from talking with the protesters and reading the  literature.

“None of my guests seemed to be negatively affected by what was going on and, in fact, several of them stated, ‘I’m ordering fish!,’”
Oltmans said.

We asked him if he has reconsidered where he buys his fish, following this brouhaha. He said:

“I’ve spoken to [Wild Edibles] quite extensively about what’s happened, and they were doing a couple of things that weren’t quite  right and they’re paying overtime back pay and that seems like a good, safe thing for them to do, if they were not paying overtime when they should have been. … So, from my perspective [and] from what [Wild Edibles] has told me and shown me, it appears that they’ve made a good faith effort to resolve the issues and that’s why I don’t understand why [the protests] are ongoing.

“I’ve worked with Wild Edibles for many, many years and I feel some loyalty towards them and want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I know them, and these other guys, I don’t know who they are.”

So, why are they targeting Jack the Horse? Gross said it’s simply one of many restaurants citywide where they are alerting customers to their cause.

And will there be more protests, or something more drastic? Gross said no, not in the immediate future: “We’re not calling for a boycott of Jack the Horse Tavern at this time. We’re asking people to avoid the seafood though if they go there.”

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  • Homer Fink

    I will be at Jack the Horse tonight; come by and tell me what you think. I’ll have our handy Brooklyn Bugle flipcam on hand to record your comment.

  • Jerry

    This is a disappointingly Fox News-style “fair n’ balanced” post. Negative, leading language, baiting and baseless suggestion that the protesters are anything but peaceful, and not a first-hand account of the protesters’ issues to be found. Shoddy journalism on a usually solid blog.

    So what is this protest about, anyone know? Are there legitimate labor issues involving this fish supply company? The very presence of “carpet bagging protesters” would seem to suggest there are some serious issues involved…

  • Homer Fink

    “Jerry” first I’d like you to apologize for alleging that Ms. Portlock’s reporting is “shoddy”. That’s just plain wrong and rude and inaccurate.

    As far as the “carpetbagging” claim – Brandworkers are taking a Manhattan beef and using big city tactics on a residential street in our neighborhood. Tonight, they also threatened to bring one of those giant rats onto our streets. That’s out of line and just wrong.

    Their issue with Wild Edibles has been going on for years. Frankly, they’re doing themselves and their cause a disservice by protesting JtH – an independent business that is now thriving in what was for a very long time a dusty and empty storefront.

    We live in America, friends, and Mr. Oltmans is free to run his business as he sees fit.

    Yes, ONE protest is OK – more than one is stalking and harassment and an abuse of free speech in my opinion. If Brandworkers aren’t careful and thoughtful in the presentation of their POV they are no better than the “forces of evil” they claim to rally against.

    Mr. Oltmans has written a few very civilized emails to Mr. Gross and company and all he gets in return is their disrespect and continued demonstrations.

    Yes this headline may seem biased to you but we call ’em like we see ’em. And our record of standing on the side of right can be seen in many of our posts.

    As a matter of fact one of Brandworkers/Wobbly’s (an affiliated site of their movement) main writers – Diane Krauthamer – covered the trials and tribulations of Mohammed at the Montague Street Key Food for us recently. We saw that he may have been treated unfairly and we stood by him. As for knowledge of unions – My mother, my grandfather, my grandmother and I were union members. Sometimes the union is right, sometimes it’s dead wrong. They’re not superheroes and it’s a fools errand to believe otherwise.

    (Krauthamer’s work is seen here:

    So please don’t think we’re “anti-worker” or biased in any direction other than being PRO- Brooklyn Heights.

    And the behavior of Mr. Gross and company here has been out of scale for this quiet residential area and disrespectful.

    Sadly, their cause – against Wild Edibles who recently lost a RICO suit against Brandworkers – has been lost in the haze of bad manners.

    This is not 1968. This is not Chicago.

    Treat a good man – Mr. Oltmans – the way a good man should be treated: with respect.

  • ABC

    I agree with “Jerry”. And sorry “Homer Fink”, but there’s nothing “big city” about protesting. No matter what I think about the claims against Wild Edibles, I”ll always support a group’s right to non-violent protest — no matter residential the corner may be.

  • AEB

    If the bottom line is disruption of business–as opposed to the reasonable discomfort with protesters assembling (so far, quietly, it seems) on a bucolic corner in a ditto nabe–then Brandworkers haven’t met it.

    And it seems to me, assuming their appearance again without an escalation of confrontation, they won’t.

    Don’t believe we should think of BH as a place beyond the big city it’s actually a part of–not subject to organized protest, whether one agrees with its goals or not.

  • Adam

    I agree with Jerry on the quality of writing in this article. Or rather, the journalistic (lack of) quality. Not surprised residents of Brooklyn Heights don’t want anyone protesting, we’d rather live in “Mini Westchester” and leave the protesters to the city. Oh wait, this is the city. Oh well.

  • The Where

    I find the carpetbagging commenters like “Jerry” and “Adam” to be very hilarious. When you wear long pants and collared shirts I can take you seriously. Tu soy no bueno gente.

  • JM

    I agree w/ those who say this artcle is slanted at best.”Carpetbagging” has a very neg connotation to start with. Does the author believe tat the only valid protestors would be those who reside in a 10 block radius ? And for those whose knee jerk reaction is “I’ll order MORE fish” how ignorant is that? You mean you’ll pay 3 times the price for “wild salmon” that JTH honestly buys from Wild Edibles but is duped by getting farmed salmon and charging you the customer for “wild”? These protestors are trying to stopped Wild Edibles unfair and misleading business practices by putting a little civil pressure on the merchants to stop using hem, There are other sources that JTH could use and ensure their loyal customers as well as themselves are not being ripped off.

  • Jose Uribe

    I think it is perfectly acceptable for a neighborhood blog to come to the defense of one of the few successful small businesses in the neighborhood. Particularly when this business is subject to harassment by a bunch of immature and self righteous trust fund protesters (who I am sure are responsible for most of the posts today alleging yellow journalism).

  • JM

    I assure you Jose that I am far from a trust fund baby. My father worked in a steel mill for 36 years so I know the importance of unions. Why aren’t you concerned or at least acknowledging the grievances the protestors have with Wild Edibles. And you do realize that they are not trying to close JTH but rather get them to change vendors as a way to hit Wild Edibles in the pocket book ? So you don’t like “trust fund babies” but you obviously don’t give a damn about the working class folks who have been abused by Wild Edibles? Sounds like sombody’s got some other issues other than the acual point that is supposed to be debated here.

  • epc

    There is absolutely no requirement, law, etc. for a blog to be objective.

    Googling Brandworkers was an educational experience. I had no idea the IWW was still around.

  • The Where

    Or for that matter most of their support comes from socialists and the socialist workers party. When they go to Bensonhurst to protest the supply chain of “mafia cheese” i’ll believe them a little more. But by doing that they risk real dangers like a new pair of cement Tevas.

  • JM

    Jane, I’m all for small business owners and their employees. I was reacting to the obvious bias of this coverage and the blatant anti union, anti workers rights slant of some of the comments. As for a more productive approach, I’m not sure. Seems like there is a long list of small restaurants who have stopped using WE when made aware of their treatment of workers and other bad practices. And the JTH owners statements above don’t seem all that convincing since they are based on what W.E. is telling him, and they don’t seem to have a very reliable track record where that’s concerned. I think alot of readers here are forgetting who the real culprit is. If it wasn’t for the protestors efforts, would W.E. even be reconsidering their non payment of OT to Latino workers and other violations that he Labor Commission has sited them for numerous times?

  • Jerry


    I have no doubt that Mr. Oltmans is a good man, but the protesters’ beef (or fish?) isn’t with him, now is it? It’s with a crooked supply company that he’s using to get his products. If JM’s assertion re: wild vs. farm is indeed correct, then logic would suggest that it would benefit the establishment (not to mention its clientele) to consider an alternative distributor.

    And I have no intention of apologizing for my critique of this post’s writing style. It is an overly one-sided account of this conflict.

    @ The Where: Don’t you worry your pretty little bourgeois face about my wardrobe, sunshine. I looks gooood…

  • The Where

    Jerry – IWW, Brandworkers et al are socialists and anarchists. I’ve been doing my Googling. Worst of all they associate with anti-capitalists. This is America. Love it or leave it. And I’m sure Mr. Lou Dobbs will love the fact the the precious Mr. Gross takes the side of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS over TAX PAYING citizens.

    Try your sh*t in Bensonhurst and see how long your wardrobe looks goood. Or keep trying it here. As they say in Bay Ridge “someone might get hoit.”

  • AEB

    My, goodness, The Where! A genuine xenophobic reactionary in our midst! And a bullying one, too.

    Or is that redundant?

  • AEB

    Ooops. Meant to say, see above, jingoist reactionary.

    But xenophobia is usually part of the package….

  • bornhere

    The Where — What’s with the threats? (Although your Brooklynese is way better than your Spanish.)

  • The Where

    I prefer sardonic. And i love all people except extortionists like Brandworkers.

  • Stan

    I can’t help but wondering:
    a) Is Homer getting comped meals
    b) Is “The Where” someone close to to the restaurant

    keep shilling, guys!

  • Homer Fink

    “stan” – I’ve never gotten a “comped” meal from Jack the Horse and if I should we would disclose that. Nice try.

  • ABC

    “Homer”, what is with all the “quotes” on this blog???!! I find it “hilarious”.

    But really, “comped”?

    My question about Wild Edibles is how can a company that doesn’t pay their workers wages they’ve earned, packages and sells cheap product as expensive product, firesworkers who are interested in unionizing — how do they end up filing for bankruptcy protection. I mean, hello, these guys should be able to turn a buck!

  • hoppy

    Jane, you’re not the sole poster who agrees with you and that’s no fluke. I’m also bored to the gills with this thread. Maybe everyone needs to scale back their rhetoric.

  • Jose Uribe

    If I see those bearded teva wearing losers out there again I am going to grab hold of the one I think looks most smug (and that will be tough) and kick the shit of him in front of his other self righteous light weights . . . .