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Amelie’s French Bakery critics hold protest outside NoDa store on Wednesday

By Caroline McMillan Portillo
cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com

About a dozen protesters gathered on the sidewalk outside Amelie’s French Bakery on North Davidson Street Wednesday afternoon – the latest public move in a controversy that started when a disgruntled production-kitchen manager recently posted his resignation on Facebook.

The group of dissenters, led by the employee who resigned, Justin Miller, claimed that the popular Charlotte mainstay often pays minimum wage, asks employees to work off the clock and is stingy with overtime pay. They held signs that said: “Honk for a living wage!” and “French pastry is sweet, but wages so sour leave bitter memories.”

“It’s naive to think that an employer that pays poverty wages won’t take advantage of their employees,” said Robert Corriher, who said he worked at Amelie’s from 2009 to 2010.

Two current employees disagreed. “It’s a family environment,” said Kentrell Lavergne, who works security and watched the protesters from the parking lot. “I love it, and I’m not going anywhere soon.”

Barista Chloe Vazquez, who said she has worked at Amelie’s for three years, said most employees don’t feel marginalized. “Employees there are proud and are moving forward with the company,” she said.

Last week, the bakery’s co-owner and managing partner Lynn St. Laurent – who found herself in the midst of a social media firestorm – said the company intends to have an independent third party review policies regarding hiring, promotion procedures and fair treatment of employees.

Miller said on Wednesday that he and St. Laurent plan to sit down and discuss the controversy soon: “My biggest request is that the process be transparent to the public,” he said.

McMillan Portillo: 704-358-6045; Twitter: @cbmcmillan
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