Food Trends

Blue Apron's New Jersey facility struggling with employee violence

How about a knuckle sandwich to go with that kale and quinoa?

Blue Apron — the gourmet meal-kit delivery service whose rapid growth has spurred chatter that it could go public as soon as next year — has been struggling not only to keep up with demand but with a troubling spate of violence among workers at its Jersey City, NJ, distribution warehouse, an investigation by The Post has found.

Just three weeks ago, on Sept. 20, bedlam erupted inside the facility as three fights broke out during a single evening shift — prompting a frightened team of corporate supervisors to flee the premises, according to eyewitnesses.

In one of the scuffles, a male worker in the warehouse’s refrigerated packing room shoved a co-worker’s head into a meal-kit box half-filled with ice, frozen meat and veggies, says Lowell Hensley Jr., who was working one assembly line over.

“One had the other in a headlock — he was basically choking him in the box,” Hensley told The Post in a recent interview. “It went on for maybe about six seconds. Then everyone realized they weren’t playing, and some of the other employees broke it up.”

About an hour later, two female workers were pulled apart by co-workers after one pushed the other’s head in an escalating shouting match, according to two employees who spoke on the condition The Post wouldn’t use their names.

In a third scuffle, three workers dashed outside to fight — with a supervisor in hot pursuit — after one of them shoved and threatened a co-worker.

“One guy took his smock off” as he ran out, according to Hensley. “It was like one of those videos in jail, where a fight breaks out and everyone stops what they’re doing and gets rowdy.”

It got so bad a while ago that some employees regularly brought knives and razor blades to work, adds Saquina Johnson, a 20-year-old former employee who worked at the Jersey City fulfillment center for most of last year.

“Some people were saying they were used for opening boxes,” Johnson said. “Others said they needed to protect themselves.”

Rising concerns over weapons and violence prompted management last fall to post a sign, “No Firearms,” next to the main entry gate. Today, all workers pass through a metal detector and are subject to having their bags checked as they report for their shifts.

None of the three employee dustups at the facility, which employs more than 1,000 full- and part-time workers, was reported to police. But they have fueled chatter among workers ever since.

The fights are even starting to frighten supervisors.

At a hastily called “emergency meeting” after the three-fight shift, a manager told workers that a group of corporate supervisors, who just happened to be visiting the facility that day, “weren’t too happy about seeing that,” according to Hensley.

The truth is, Hensley noted, “They said they were actually scared to come back again.”

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