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Restaurant chain claims union intimidation tactics

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Published on: Thursday, November 14, 2013

By Donna Broadway

ROCKVILLE - Union leaders say one local food chain isn’t safe, while the business says it’s being intimidated by the union.

According to two separate Montgomery County health inspection reports released by UNITE HERE, there were several health code violations at some Silver Diner restaurants in the last two years.

The restaurant has been cited for 260 food safety violations, including 78 critical violations, since Jan. 1, 2012, according to a press release from the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees and Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (UNITE HERE), a labor union with 265,000 members in the U.S. and Canada and representing food service, hotel, laundry, casino gaming and warehouse workers.

 Vicki Bendure, a spokeswoman for Silver Diner, calls the publicizing of the inspection reports a union tactic, saying UNITE HERE has attempted to organize Silver Diner employees at the BWI Marshall Airport location. Bendure says the employees have not shown interest in organizing. She also says all 15 restaurants are in full compliance with health and safety codes.

 “Customers should be aware of Silver Diner’s food safety record,” said Ian Mikusko, who analyzed the food inspection reports for UNITE HERE. “The company’s ‘healthy’ and ‘clean’ brand do not mesh with the violations in its health department reports.”

According to the official inspection reports provided by UNITE?HERE, diners at the Rockville location complained of E. coli poisoning after consuming beef products in July. A subsequent visit from the health inspector found no visible violations. Other violations included leaks, improper equipment and food stored at the wrong temperature. In Gaithersburg, complaints included mice, food stored at the wrong temperature, no paper towels in the bathroom, and employees storing backpacks near food.

UNITE HERE says 14 of the 15 locations were cited within a 22-month period for foods held at improper temperatures. The Food and Drug Administration identifies food temperature violations as one of five risk factors for food borne illness, according to UNITE HERE.

Two of the Silver Diner locations, one in McLean and the other in Falls Church, were closed multiple times for health violations –according to UNITE HERE.

Bendure said only one location was close - in Virginia more than year ago and all are currently in good standing.

“All of them are full in compliance with food and health safety codes. They would be closed if they had critical food violations,” said Bendure.

“All 15 restaurants are in good standing. They also have a private, independent inspector, a third party inspector that comes out to all of their locations in between the time the local health department comes, which is a little above and beyond. There have been 69 closures the last two years for Montgomery County and none of them have been a Silver Diner.”  

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