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Workers Push Back After Vegan, Punk-Owned Donut Shop in Highland Park Allegedly Fires Unionizing Employees

11:47 AM PST on January 22, 2021

[dropcap size=big]H[/dropcap]ighland Park donut shop Donut Friend recently came under fire from several former and current employees after owner Mark Trombino, a punk rock music producer and former drummer for Drive Like Jehu, allegedly fired several employees over attempts to unionize and bring light to various issues at the shop.

The @donutfriendunited Instagram was recently launched online, detailing many of the grievances employees had against Trombino. 


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A post shared by DFU (@donutfriendunited)

The Instagram group posted that they had begun to organize about a year ago prior to COVID-19 to address issues including inconsistent and scarce hours, few benefits, lack of communication, and an unlivable wage, but the problems became exacerbated as the pandemic came to be in March. 

Donut Friend’s Instagram account has since posted a response stating Mark Trombino felt he had “not listened to them as well as I could have...”

We will have more to say soon, but please do not sympathize with Mark Trombino.” Donut Friend United’s Instagram said. “He has had countless chances to do the right thing and change the way he runs his business and treats his employees. Only now that there is public backlash is he facing up to any of his wrongdoings.”

In a ten photo post, the account details how the pandemic caused many to be unsure if they would have work or not. The post stated that Mark received a loan of $330,000 during the pandemic but never addressed this with employees and laid off several employees. Nonetheless, Trombino proceeded to open a new store in Silver Lake.

The post discusses grievances, including an employee testing positive for COVID-19 when they were open in July being unaddressed. The self-proclaimed union wrote a letter with a list of five demands signed by a majority of staff. 

These demands and more were listed in a latter Instagram post, with most falling under communication, safety, scheduling, pay, and a few others listed.

Trombino called for several in-store meetings and employee reviews during this time, according to the Instagram page.

“We were chastised for our letter’s language,” the post said. “We were told the letter caused Mark intense distress and that it made him feel ‘shitty.’” During this time, a union began to form, but two employees who had been vocal about the grievances reported being fired with no reason given during this period. 

These demands and more were listed in a latter Instagram post, with most falling under communication, safety, scheduling, pay, and a few others listed.


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A post shared by DFU (@donutfriendunited)

The DonutFriendUnited post continued, stating that Trombino did not disclose to the rest of the staff when employees first started testing positive for COVID-19. The post also noted that the DTLA location closed due to several employees having to quarantine, but Donut Friend initially listed the site as “closed for repairs.”

Another employee was suspended after a private message was reportedly accidentally leaked from their account, stating that this was untrue, and led to them being fired in the aftermath. Another employee was fired shortly after for “job performance,” despite no formal warnings and no prior indication.

Shortly after, Twitter user ‘@elsangito’ made a public post calling out Donut Friend.  

donut friend in highland park LA just fired a bunch of their workers for trying to unionize and I highly suggest not supporting them and making their business suffer even more for it

— Dragula Rasa (@ElSangito) January 20, 2021

This has since received hundreds of retweets and started a brigading campaign against Donut Friend, with several former employees coming forward and noting poor treatment from the eatery. However, a report this morning on Eater LA that features an interview with a former employee says that the viral tweet is “technically inaccurate” but that he still supports an “unofficial boycott.”  

Trombino locked his public Instagram and Twitter during this.

Donut Friend’s Instagram has since posted a response stating Mark Trombino felt he had “not listened to them as well as I could have” and that there wasn’t an indication of organizing efforts. Stating that the business is pro-labor and pro-union.


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A post shared by DONUT FRIEND (@donutfriend)

They also state that one employee let go recently was let go on behavioral issues and that the lack of communication was due to his tendency to be private.

“My instinct to be private and say as little as possible is my single greatest fault as the owner of this company,” Trombino said in the Instagram post.

Donut Friend and Trombino have not yet responded to L.A. Taco when asked for comment by email.

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