Don’t look now, but the Teamsters are (still) taking pages out of Jimmy Hoffa’s playbook.
Our story takes us to Boston, where “Top Chef” filmed a segment back in 2014. Earlier this month, “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi told a federal jury investigating a union extortion case that several Teamsters members harassed her on the way to the shoot. Furious that the show used nonunion drivers, Teamsters thugs—sorry, union members—allegedly surrounded Lakshmi’s vehicle yelling profanities and threatening to assault her. They even hurled Islamophobic and sexist insults at Lakshmi, which you can see here (warning: profane language):
Not surprisingly, Lakshmi was “petrified” of the union mob, claiming it “felt like serious schoolyard bullying” and “drastically affected the whole production, not just that day.” The four union members involved—who are part of Teamsters Local 25—now face charges of conspiracy and attempted extortion, and up to 20 years in prison. All because “Top Chef” used nonunion drivers.
The trial has also put an uncomfortable spotlight on Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a longtime Laborers union official. At least three witness testified that a top Walsh aide tried to withhold permits for “Top Chef” unless the show hired union member. Mayor Walsh’s head of tourism, Kenneth Brissette, even forced two Boston restaurants to withdraw from working with the show by threatening to unleash union protesters at the restaurants. This led “Top Chef” to work with a third restaurant in nearby Milton, where Lakshmi and other employees thought they would be safe. If only.
The message is clear: If you ship up to Boston, make sure you do it in a union car.