Four union members have been indicted on charges they intimidated the film crew of the Bravo reality show Top Chef, including its host, Padma Lakshmi, while filming in Boston.
The men stand accused of using threats, intimidation tactics, and violence in an attempt to secure jobs for members of the Teamsters union on the production of the show, the Boston Globe reported.
At one point, one of the union members threatened Padma Lakshmi directly. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz described the behavior as “old school thug tactics.”
“A group of rogue Teamsters employed old-school thug tactics to get no-work jobs from an out of town production company. This kind of conduct reflects poorly on our city and must be addressed for what it is — not union organizing, but criminal extortion.”
And apparently these tactics have been put to use before, not just against Padma Lakshmi and the Top Chef crew, the Boston Herald added. Local 25 has had it out with Hollywood and the federal government for years — members have been convicted of money-laundering, extortion, racketeering, and of intimidating any movie producer who wants to film in Boston.
The indictment addresses a series of incidents against crew and Padma that occurred in the spring of 2014 while they attempted to film the show at a restaurant in the city.
It all began when one of the men charged, Mark Harrington — the Teamsters’ secretary-treasurer — met with Top Chef producers to say he wanted his men hired on the show. When told this wouldn’t happen, he and another man, Daniel Redmond, told them they would “shut the production down that night.”
Then came more threats. Harrington told Padma Lakshmi’s crew that “he did not care about [the television crew] and that all he cared about was that some of his guys get hired on the show.” They “blocked vehicles from the entryway to the set and used actual physical violence and threats of physical violence to try and prevent people from entering the set,” the indictment reads.
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Padma Lakshmi was directly targeted during filming of an episode at a restaurant called Steel and Rye in Milton — this incident took place in June, 2014. Crew were allegedly “chest-bumped” after members noticed they had hired nonunion crew. They yelled “profanities and racial and homophobic slurs” at them, loitered near the cars, and slashed tires.
In the most well-publicized incident, a Teamster hurled obscenities at Padma Lakshmi outside the restaurant, Boston Magazine reported, threatening “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you [expletive] whore.”
The indictment gets even more interesting when it turns the allegations against the administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh. Around the time of filming, someone inside his office called the Omni Parker House hotel and the Seaport restaurant in Menton to issue a threat: if they hosted Padma Lakshmi and her film crew, Teamsters would picket their businesses.
Both cancelled their plans with Top Chef.
Walsh himself is a former labor leader. The Teamsters and other unions have supported both his campaign and other Boston politicians generously. He’s actually appeared on the show and has declined to clarify his relationship with the union. He also said he has no clue who called the hotel and restaurant last year.
“If these allegations turn out to be true, then I’m very disappointed by it. There’s an ongoing case now, clearly. There were indictments made today. We’re going to see as we move forward. If we need to be cooperative in any matter, we’re certainly going to be.”
The men charged are Harrington, 61, of Andover; John Fidler, 51, of Holbrook; Daniel Redmond, 47, of Medford; and Robert Cafarelli, 45, of Middleton. Each are facing federal extortion charges.
There has been no comment from Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef, or Bravo.
[Photo Courtesy Frazer Harrison / Getty Images]