GT Kombucha Workers Speak Out Against Appalling Exploitation

Some shocking allegations against GT Living Foods as a company, and specifically, founder George Thomas Dave, have come to the surface. A Los Angeles County Superior Court is hearing the case which covers complaints of severe and abusive working conditions, specifically around 2010 to 2014.

Aside from claims of retaliation, insufficient breaks, inadequate time to go to the bathroom, wage theft, unpaid overtime, and a dangerously hot and unsanitary environment, the lawsuit says that the kombucha, kefir, and wellness shot company intentionally hired undocumented workers because they would be easy to take advantage of. For example, workers knew they needed to arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled early morning shifts and wait off the clock until the doors opened. If they were late, they would be fired immediately. Employees also worked at least 12-hour shifts, but were made to sign documents stating that their shifts did not exceed eight hours. Some of the individuals that signed were illiterate, and to make matters worse, such documents were not even legal in the first place.

For the first of three portions of the case, the judge, William Highberger, found the testimony of the 11 workers to be plausible and honest on July 27, 2023, and awarded them a total of $450,000. In regards to Dave's testimony, Judge Highberger said, "I, frankly, found that Mr. Dave lied through his teeth and is not in any way, shape, or form credible," reports the Los Angeles Times.

How is founder George Thomas Dave reacting to the lawsuit?

George Thomas Dave failed to take any responsibility for the environment at the GT Living Foods factory, located in Vernon, California, and instead framed himself as a victim of harassment, extortion, blatant lies, and bad vibes. In court, he shared a bizarre anecdote about several batches of kombucha going bad because of coming in contact with a manager that was going through trials in his personal life and died suddenly soon after. Dave used this as reasoning for why a positive workplace environment is imperative. He denied the claims of abuse and insisted he had always been committed to treating workers well.

It is quite the fall from grace for a fermented foods company based on sustainability, transformation, synergy, and full-body health. Dave, guided by his beliefs in Eastern medical philosophy, started bottling the kombucha after he saw how his homebrew helped his mother during her cancer recovery. When GT was founded in 1995, it was the first commercially produced kombucha in the United States and undoubtedly helped grow what is a $2.59 billion global industry as of 2021. The trial's upcoming second phase has not been scheduled yet.