North Bay firefighters launched a boycott of a Napa Valley winery this weekend after its owner criticized their wages and benefits in a letter published in the St. Helena Star.
The letter, written by V. Sattui Winery owner Dario Sattui, touched off a firestorm of angry comments on Facebook and Twitter by firefighters, police officers and their supporters.
“While I respect the work they do and the inherent dangers, they are greatly overpaid, work only two days a week (a third of which they sleep) and get to retire at 50 years old at 90 percent of their pay after working 30 years,” Sattui wrote in his April 9 letter.
“But maybe getting paid 90 percent of one’s maximum pay for another 25-30 years for doing nothing isn’t so unjust, as they received high salaries for working very little before they retired,” Sattui wrote.
Tim Aboudara, vice president and political director for Santa Rosa Fire Fighters IAFF Local 1401, posted a note about the letter on his Facebook page and encouraged followers on Twitter to read it on Friday night.
The response from public safety workers and their supporters inundated the winery’s Facebook page this weekend as word of the letter spread on social networking sites.
“I only hope that when your winery is burning down, no fire fighters come to help your business,” stated one post, submitted under the name of Emily Morena Orloff. “I hope your business rots in hell in this economy.”
“After Dario Sattui’s ignorant, uninformed ratings about firefighters I wouldn’t use your rot gut crap to clean auto parts,” stated another post, submitted under the name of Dan McCabe.
Several pages sprang up on Facebook to promote the boycott. One page, titled the Public Safety Boycott V Sattui Winery and Castello di Amoroso, had 819 fans by Sunday evening. Its creator was listed as Mike Stewart, who describes himself as a Ukiah fire engineer and paramedic.
A second Facebook page titled, in all caps, V SATTUI WINE TASTES LIKE RECYCLED SEWAGE, had collected 182 fans by Sunday evening. It insinuated that there were “strange labor practices” at the St. Helena winery and encouraged visitors to boycott V. Sattui wines.
“Public Safety people who want to stay healthy, and their supporters should probably avoid Sattui Wines, to avoid gagging as they drink,” stated the site’s creator, who was not publicly identified.
A post submitted under the name of Brad Conners — vice president of the Santa Rosa Police Officers’ Association — featured a picture of Sattui along with the caption: “Our hero….should anyone get flagged down by him or see him choking in a restaurant.” The post and photo were removed Sunday evening.
The vehemence of the responses prompted one supporter to urge public safety workers to tamp down their comments.
“Firefighters, medics, police, nurses and doctors do a rough job one which deserves respect. However, I am embarrassed at some of these comments that elude to not helping him if he was in a state of emergency,” stated a post submitted under the name of Sam Crenshaw, who describes himself as a paramedic on his Facebook page.
“The respect from others should be earned not expected. It is dangerous to say such things in a public forum with your name attached to it. We should approach this in a proactive way and NOT give him or others more reasons to say we are not part of a PROFESSIONAL group of people. These are tight times and such reactions can be taken in a very wrong way,” concluded the post written under Crenshaw’s name.
A copy of Sattui’s letter was placed on the site by a poster using Aboudara’s name.
“While we, of course, support the public’s right to speak their opinion, this particular author is outright slanderous against our profession, our wages/benefits, and our members,” stated the post under Aboudara’s name.
“What the author (Sattui) fails to appreciate, is that we may be able to chose whether or not to purchase his wineries’ products, but when he, his family, friends, neighbors, or employees find themselves in a moment of need, our brothers and sisters will proudly, professionally, and humbly answer the call and astound them with the high level of service they provide,” stated the post under Aboudara’s name.
- Ted Appel
Watch Sonoma County