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Activision Blizzard employees form a committee to fight workplace discrimination

A dozen current and former Activision Blizzard employees have formed a committee aimed at protecting workers from discriminatory practices at the studio, outlining a list of demands for CEO Bobby Kotick, newly appointed diversity officer Kristen Hines and chief human resources officer Julie Hodges. 

As detailed by The Washington Post, the group’s demands include ending mandatory arbitration in discrimination cases, improving on-site lactation rooms, protecting workers from retaliation, increasing support for trans employees and instituting independent investigations in cases of discrimination, including sexual harassment. The employee group, called the Worker Committee Against Sex and Gender Discrimination, submitted their demands to the studio’s leadership team today.

The committee specifically demands private lactation rooms and appropriate storage spaces for breastmilk and pumping equipment. Breastfeeding workers at Activision Blizzard have documented their issues with the studio’s lactation rooms, describing them as filthy, uncomfortable and poorly secured. Employees said fridges for breast milk were also used to store beer, that people pumping often had to sit on the floor and that breast milk was sometimes stolen. In regards to trans rights, the group demands the creation of a trans network similar to the in-house women’s resource network and for software tools to be wiped of employees’ deadnames.

In response to the formal call for change, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told the Post that the studio appreciated hearing employees’ concerns, and outlined a few changes that had already been made to improve lactation rooms, the arbitration process and channels of communication.

Activision Blizzard executives have been accused of cultivating a sexist, discriminatory workplace in multiple lawsuits over the past year. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing first sued Activision Blizzard in July 2021 after conducting a two-year investigation into allegations of unchecked sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and a pervasive “frat boy culture” at the studio. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal group, followed up with a similar lawsuit against Activision Blizzard in September 2021. Activision Blizzard settled the federal EEOC lawsuit this March, agreeing to establish an $18 million fund to compensate employees who experienced discrimination at the studio.

Backed by the Communications Workers of America, Activision Blizzard employees have been advocating for change and unionization — to some degree of success — since the lawsuits were filed. CWA called the $18 million settlement “woefully inadequate,” arguing it would provide the maximum compensation to just 60 workers, when there were likely hundreds of claimants. 

Former Activision Blizzard employee and campaign organizer for the tech-industry group CODE-CWA, Jessica Gonzalez, appealed the $18 million settlement this week, seeking an increase in compensation. Gonzalez is one of the 12 employees in the Worker Committee Against Sex and Gender Discrimination. 

An additional lawsuit accusing Activision Blizzard of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation was filed this week by a current employee. And there’s the wide-ranging investigation into the studio’s workplace practices currently underway at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Review: Eleven Madison Park’s Menu Doesn’t Translate to Its $300 Meal Kit

Since Daniel Humm and Will Guidara bought Eleven Madison Park from Danny Meyer in 2011, it has earned a reputation as one of the best restaurants in the world, sustaining three Michelin stars since 2012. It has also become nearly synonymous with exclusivity and luxury. I cannot remember a time when there wasn’t a waiting list for reservations, or when a meal didn’t cost hundreds of dollars (the dining room tasting menu is currently $335 a person, not including tip or alcohol, paid in advance), and friends who have had the opportunity to go have gushed about the attention to detail, the incredible hospitality, and the ability to hang out and drink all the apple brandy you want after the meal. Even after Guidara departed the restaurant in 2019 and Humm turned EMP into a mostly vegan restaurant last year, to somewhat lackluster reviews, it has stayed a destination for the wealthy and all those who aspire to emulate their lifestyles.

But now, Eleven Madison Park is attempting to bring that luxury to your home kitchen. Eleven Madison Home is its new home delivery box, which provides “one day of plant-based meals curated to be as delicious as possible — from breakfast through to dinner, plus healthy snacks and delicious sweets,” for two. (You’d be forgiven for asking why they’re getting into the meal delivery game when everyone is finally getting back to restaurants, because a restaurant like EMP can make its own schedule.) The two-person box costs $285 — with taxes, it comes in at just over $310, or almost the cost of a meal at the restaurant — and there are options to enhance your weekly order with items like a granola trio ($65) or a whole roasted curry cauliflower ($75). Like the restaurant’s pivot to a plant focus, Humm positions the boxes as a step toward a more sustainable future.

“It’s not news to anyone that our current food system is unsustainable,” Humm says in a note that accompanies the first box, and he argues that as a chef, his impact can come through encouraging people to eschew meat once a week. “What could be the impact if we all ate plant-based food more often? We don’t need to eat like this every day, but just one day per week can have an immediate effect.”

When Eleven Madison Park pivoted, many questioned whether the experience would still be worth the price. Some grumbled a menu without meat — and luxury signifiers like caviar and butter-poached lobster tail — could never justify such a cost, both because meat is more expensive to create, and probably due to skepticism that vegetables could ever be as good as a steak. In the switch, Humm is arguing that the skill of EMP’s chefs could make a beet transcendent: After all, what you’re paying for from EMP is not just ingredients; it’s labor, it’s atmosphere, it’s creativity and ambiance and innovation.

Except that’s not what you get with a home meal kit, and Eleven Madison Home’s existence raises questions about what we really do pay for in a fine dining restaurant, and what happens when everything but the food is stripped away. Because what you get is an uneven, mostly fine, single day’s worth of eating, at the cost of what most people spend on groceries over the course of a few weeks.

The first-ever Eleven Madison Home box was sent out last week. The box’s contents change each time, and my order came with the day’s food, as well as descriptors of some ingredients’ origins, and instructions on how to cook what needs to be cooked. “The Weekly Box is designed to make the adjustment to one plant-based day a week as easy — and as delicious — as possible,” Humm writes in the accompanying note. The menu for that one day: breakfast of coconut chia yogurt and a granola bar; vegetable minestrone soup and a gem lettuce salad for lunch; root vegetable chips for a snack; and for dinner, wild mushroom rice with a dessert of double-chocolate espresso cookies that should be made in a convection oven (“if you have a non-convection oven, cooking times may be longer”). Again, that one plant-based day will cost you over $300.

Salad in an aluminum takeout container next to a small bottle of salad dressing.

An EMP lunch under sad desk lighting.

Hand holding up glass jar containing orange liquid and noodles; label on the jar reads “Spring Minestrone Soup” along with an ingredients list.

It’s hard not to harp on the price. For reference, four meals for two people from Blue Apron will cost $85.91 a week. Purple Carrot, which is also entirely plant-based, costs $106 for four dinners a week. A medium recurring box from Daily Harvest, which you can fill with 14 vegan meals of your choosing, is just over $100. But of course, these meal-kit services are not from Eleven Madison Park. Eleven Madison Home makes much of the provenance of its produce, its hyperseasonality, and the recipes that you can sometimes find at the restaurant itself. A portion of the proceeds go to Rethink Food, a nonprofit started by a former EMP chef that distributes plant-based meals across New York City. The service is also hyperlocal itself, not requiring vials of olive oil and single servings of sliced carrots to be shipped across the country. (Of course, this means you have to be in New York City to get it, and even then it’s not a guarantee; I had to get my order delivered to my office in Manhattan, because Eleven Madison Home wouldn’t deliver to my home in Queens.)

When I opened my box in the office, multiple coworkers remarked that its contents did not look like enough food for two people for a whole day. Everything exuded a patina of “health.” The menu noted how chia seeds are a “superfood,” that the chips have been brined so they don’t absorb “too much oil” when frying, and the “protein press” granola bar is made from a protein-rich mixture that includes leftover seed husks from Ulli’s Oil Mill. I started with the coconut chia seed yogurt, strewn with cocoa nibs and topped with a tangy strawberry lime compote; like most things in the box, it came in a twee and expensive-feeling glass jar. The serving felt satisfyingly hefty. The problem is I don’t really like sweet yogurt, so after a quarter of the jar I couldn’t stomach the texture anymore. This would be a frustrating waste no matter what, but at this cost it feels like some deeper crime.

This became a recurring problem as I ate my way through the day. Rounding it out, $300 for two means each meal costs around $50, which made the yogurt about $25. I continued my breakfast with the “protein press” granola bar, which basically tasted like a Kind bar. But the bar and the four bites of yogurt sated my hunger, which made me think I would be able to stretch this food (and its cost) further, giving myself small injections of the luxury over the course of a couple days. Maybe I could have the salad for lunch today and the soup the following, or refrigerate my yogurt and force down the rest tomorrow. I was optimistic I could make this worth it.

“The thing about dinner at [the previous incarnation of] Eleven Madison Park is that even if the food didn’t always blow you away,” Eater NY critic Ryan Sutton wrote in his latest review of the restaurant, “it was often hard to leave without the distinct sensation that the team did their best to make almost every diner feel like a minor celebrity.” Sutton actually appreciated how, in the COVID era, things felt more restrained. So when visiting the location itself, even if the servers are a little less chatty or you don’t get to linger with a cocktail in the same way, you’re still experiencing hospitality in the restaurant space. Someone has plated your food with tweezers, folded your napkin for you, asked you what you wanted and brought it to you.

The intimate, careful pleasures of fine dining are gone with the box; there is nothing to distract you from what you’re eating (and sometimes cooking), which makes for a lackluster experience, and one that obscures the labor involved. Someone did indeed make this salad dressing, season this soup, and painstakingly simmer the mushroom broth I’d later be using. But when everything is designed to be transported and jarred and reheated by someone who may not be all that good at cooking, something about the Eleven-Madison-Park-ness of it is lost. At EMP, I may have thought the salad — gem lettuce with smoked chickpeas, sprouts, large slices of radishes, and a lemon tahini dressing — was a refreshing, flavorful prelude to a larger meal. At my desk under the office’s fluorescent lights, I realized I had successfully turned Eleven Madison Park into a sad desk lunch.

I finished lunch with the root vegetable chips, flavored with black lime and sumac, which I loved so much I desperately wished there were more than five. I was full though, which felt like a win. Maybe I could stretch the box out for the whole week. But around 3:30, my stomach began grumbling again, so I turned to the spring vegetable minestrone. More than any other dish, this seemed to be the one that would transport me to EMP, with the menu reading that the soup “‘has been part of the Eleven Madison Park repertoire for a long time.” I headed to the microwave.

The minestrone boasted a butter chicken-orange broth, flavored, according to the jar, with saffron, white wine, and tomato. It tasted remarkably thin, with a tinny, almost fishy aftertaste reminiscent of a watered-down can of Campbell’s soup. I searched the ingredient list again, hoping to jog my taste buds into picking up any other flavors, but there appeared to be no spice but salt, and no seasoning but the lightest touch of garlic. There was also too much broth compared to the vegetables and orzo, leaving me with half a bowl of liquid by the time I ate everything else. I took another few sips, painfully aware that without the atmosphere and the hospitality, just how little else I’ve paid for.

Around 5:30, I realized I was incredibly gassy.

The criticisms of the Eleven Madison Home box are almost too obvious. Arguing with the concept of the box, however, quickly puts one in a quagmire. You can:

1. Point out that Humm didn’t invent veganism.
2. Balk at the price and say vegetables aren’t as expensive as meat, and
3. Say that a $300-a-week box available to only the most privileged New Yorkers isn’t going to fix our food system.

A glass jar of mushroom broth, two glass jars of pickled mushrooms, bok choy, and a big of rice on a counter.

Ingredients for the wild mushroom rice, our dinner entree.

And the responses will be:

1. Who cares?
2. Meat and vegetable and labor costs in this country are skewed to the point that there’s no way to get an accurate read on what something “should” cost, and
3. Anything is better than nothing, right? It’s hard to imagine anyone signing up for this for any other reason than they want to be able to say they get their lunch from Eleven Madison Park. But if getting this box means 100 fewer eggs and 50 fewer chicken breasts are consumed every week, then maybe it’s worth it.

So let’s take Humm at his word, that this box doesn’t exist to radically change the food system, or even to appeal to vegans. It is just “intentionally designed to make it easier to eat plant-based, one day per week,” for those who choose to order it. The implication is that recipients are eating meat or dairy every day, and that this box will show them that vegan food can be both easy and delicious, a seamless replacement for a dairy yogurt breakfast, a jerky snack, or a chicken-and-rice dinner.

Dinner was indeed a glimmer of hope: Following the instructions, I made my partner and myself the wild mushroom rice, with peak seasonal morel mushrooms, rice from Blue Moon Acres Farm, baby bok choy, and a garnish of pickled hon-shimeji mushrooms. The broth, flavored with lemongrass and Sichuan peppercorn, was rich and earthy, the rice was somehow creamy but with every grain perfectly defined, and the mushrooms pickled in white balsamic and sugar gave a bright burst. We agreed it was one of those dishes that felt like more than the sum of its parts, and that if we ordered it on a date night out we’d be thrilled. At a restaurant, I’d be happy to pay for this plate of rice plus a cookie dessert to be cooked by someone else and brought to me. But at home, I was paying $50 for the ingredients alone, and the privilege of making it myself.

It is on Humm’s qualifications that I say this box fails. Yes, it’s prohibitively expensive for most, but it’s also just… fine. Despite being made with the freshest, most seasonal produce and designed by expert chefs, most dishes feel like nothing special.

When Humm first announced Eleven Madison Park would be vegan, a WSJ reporter posited he could “nudge his customers — and the rest of the world — to find luxury, surprise and delight in a plate of vegetables.” It would be trickle-down change, influencing and inspiring those lower down to emulate those at the top. Except the middle is miles ahead of Humm at this point; there are more, easier options than ever for choosing plant-based for a meal or for a whole day. Plant-based meal services like Daily Harvest and Green Chef deliver honestly comparable meals for a fraction of the cost. There are all manner of plant-based canned and frozen meals at the grocery store, and many people live within ordering distance of an Indian, Chinese, or other restaurant that can easily cater to a vegan diet. Fast-casual restaurants like Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Starbucks, and more have vegan options on their menus — you could order a vegan Chipotle bowl for every meal for six days and still come out under. And a search for “vegan recipes” brings up hundreds of cookbooks and links.

I don’t know what I wanted out of this box. It’s possible the mythos of Eleven Madison Park overshadowed any realistic expectations. But also, there’s not a version of this product that could accomplish what Humm wants it to: The reasons why people choose not to eat vegan, whether they’re cultural or financial or digestive, aren’t challenged by the box.

And more crucially, a problem this big doesn’t get solved with a product. Even arguments that “at least it’s a drop in the bucket!” can’t hold, because whose bucket are we talking about? Rather than edge the world toward a more sustainable food chain, the Eleven Madison Home box replicates the problems that are already there. The rich get yet another way to get the best of the best, and for everyone else, vegan or not, nothing changes. At least there’s comfort in knowing the best of the best is often pretty mediocre.

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14 Students, One Teacher Killed in Mass Shooting at Elementary School; Alleged Shooter 18-Year-Old Salvador Romas Dead

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced fourteen students and one teacher were killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday. Abbott said the alleged shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Romas, a Uvalde resident, was killed by responding officers. Two officers are reported ‘struck by rounds’ but were not seriously injured.

Areas hospitals have reported several wounded and two dead. It is not clear whether Abbott’s report includes the reports from the hospitals.

Abbott said the shooter used a handgun and possibly a rifle.

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Abbott also said Romas reportedly shot his grandmother before attacking the school. The grandmother’s condition was not reported.

University Health Hospital in San Antonio reported they are caring for two shooting victims, “Update on the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde: at University Hospital, one patient, a 66-year-old woman, is in critical condition. The other patient is a 10-year-old girl, also in critical condition.”

Uvalde Memorial Hospital posted their last update to Facebook at 2:47 p.m. CDT:

“2:47PM UPDATE: UMH received 13 children via ambulance or buses for treatment. Two children have been transferred to San Antonio and one child is pending transfer. Two individuals that arrived at UMH were deceased. No details are available. Please refrain from coming to the hospital at this time.”

Uvalde Memorial posted an emergency request for blood donations a few minutes ago.

This is the second successful and third attempted mass shooting in recent weeks. Ten people were killed in a racially-motivated attack on grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York on May 14. The following day one person was killed in an attempted mass shooting at a church meeting of Taiwanese Christians in Southern California by a shooter who was motivated by pro-Communist China sentiments. Parishioners fought and stopped the gunman.

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Apple’s latest Pride Edition Watch bands include a nod to the company’s history

With the start of June a week away, Apple has two new Pride-themed Watch bands. The first one is a take on the company’s classic sport loop style. The design features a color gradient that incorporates the iconic rainbow colors seen on a variety of Pride flags with the addition of light blue, pink, white, brown and black. The first three colors symbolize transgender and non-binary individuals, with the latter two representing the Black and Latinx communities.

The band also includes a nod to the company’s history. Apple employed a new weaving process to remove some of the band’s woven textile loops. The technique creates a two-tone effect that the company used to include “Pride” on the outward-facing part of the band. The word is written in a cursive style that’s similar to the one the company used for its signature Macintosh “hello” greeting in 1984.

There’s also a new Pride Edition Nike Sport Loop. It features the original rainbow colors in between black stripes. It also comes with a matching Nike Bounce face. Both bands are available to purchase for $49 starting today from Apple’s website, with retail availability to follow on May 26th. Apple has also released a Pride Threads watch face. It’s available on Apple Watch Series 4 models and above with watchOS 8.6 installed. “This new watch face combines colors to represent the strength and mutual support of the LGBTQ+ movement,” according to Apple. The threads of the watch face move as you turn the wearable’s digital crown, tap on the display or raise your wrist to wake the display.

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Sign Up for Eater Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Wu’s Newsletter

Since the launch of our From the Editor newsletter in 2017, Amanda Kludt has been recapping the biggest food news — on and off Eater — as well as exciting openings and happenings in the restaurant industry.

As Eater’s new editor-in-chief, I’ll be putting my own spin on this newsletter. Every other weekend I’ll share some of my favorite stories across Eater’s vast network of sites (where we publish hundreds of stories a week), as well as the food-related stories that caught my eye and dispatches from my travels. We’ll be introducing some new features to the newsletter as well: guest takeovers from other talented editors and writers on the Eater team, plus mini interviews and behind the scenes intel on how some of our biggest initiatives get put together.

I hope you’ll follow along as we relaunch on June 4. Sign up below to get From the Editor in your inbox, or take a look back at the archives. Sign up below:

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Marjorie Taylor Greene Visits Dem Candidate’s Office to Wish Them Luck, Finds Empty, Messy Sty

Marjorie Taylor Greene paid a visit to the campaign office of Democrat candidate Marcus Flowers to wish their team “luck,” and couldn’t help but remark on the place looking empty and messy.

Video posted to social media shows the hilarious interaction.

Flowers actually posted security camera footage of Greene’s visit initially saying she “just stopped by our campaign office.”

“Rep. Greene kicked me out of her rally last year, but I didn’t make her leave our office,” he said, later adding a campaign fundraising plea based on the encounter.

RELATED: ‘MAGA Marjorie’ Taylor Greene Slams Dan Crenshaw For Funding Ukraine While Americans Struggle

Marjorie Taylor Greene Visits Her Opponent’s Campaign

Newsmax host Benny Johnson posted video presumably from a Greene aide who had followed close behind with his cell phone camera.

“What happens next is pure comedy gold,” Johnson tweeted.

Indeed, rather than encountering a bustling campaign headquarters, Greene seemed taken aback by the empty office space and what appears to be a lone worker there to accept her message.

“Hello?” she says, voice echoing. “Just wishing you guys some luck tomorrow.”

After stating she is personally feeling “fantastic about tomorrow,” Greene asked, “Is somebody working here?”

“A little messy at the front door, baby” she critiqued after looking around the place. “Yea, leaving the food around … and the chips.”

In a chipper voice she departs, “Well, good luck guys!”

RELATED: After Ukraine Vote, Marjorie Taylor Greene Perfectly Explains How Biden Is Putting America Last

Flowers Kicked Out of MTG Rally

The rally Marcus Flowers is referring to is when he tried to enter an event featuring Representatives Greene and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) nearly a year ago.

“Just got kicked out of the ‘America First’ rally with Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz because they said I was a threat,” Flowers says in a video posted to Facebook.

Flowers, or any Democrat candidate for that matter, is considered a long shot to unseat Greene after she won in 2020 with nearly 75 percent of the vote.

Her biggest test will come in today’s GOP primary in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, following a failed effort to disqualify her by opposing voters.

Greene’s opponents are hoping to latch on to the conservative firebrand’s controversial history. She was removed from the Education and Labor Committee as well as the Budget Committee for ill-advised social media posts made prior to her election to office.

She was recently accused by fellow Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw (TX) of ‘siding with Russia’ by not supporting a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine even as Americans are struggling.

“How does that help Americans? How does any of this help?” she fired back.

“I refuse to vote for useless measures that cause problems but solve none,” Greene told Crenshaw. “While you send $40 billion for your proxy war against Russia, I’m focused on baby formula for American babies.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ‘America First’ platforms and campaign war chest could carry her to victory over her opponents Tuesday. Perhaps, if Flowers wins his primary, she’ll celebrate by sending his campaign a case of chips.

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