In Top Chef Extortion Case, Boston Teamsters Leader Pleads Guilty

He won't face time in jail.
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PADMA LAKSHMI AND MARTY WALSH ON THE SET OF TOP CHEF BOSTON IN 2014. PHOTO BY DAVID MOIR/BRAVO

A leader of the Teamsters in Boston pleaded guilty Thursday in the case of alleged union bullying related to the filming in 2014 of the TV show Top Chef.

Facing the possibility of more than two years in jail, 62-year-old Mark Harrington, the union’s secretary-treasurer, took a plea deal Thursday on an attempted extortion charge, reports the Boston Globe. He now faces two years probation, and no jail time. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Harrington was among union members accused of improperly pressuring the cooking show, which had planned to film in Boston, to hire union labor for the shoot. The producers ended up leaving the city to film in Milton, where they encountered demonstrators from the Teamsters, who, they say, were disruptive and threatening, used homophobic and sexist slurs, and slashed tires. U. S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz last year called the tactics that of an “old-school thug.”

Alleged Boston union strong-arming has led to a probe of labor’s influence on City Hall. Boston tourism czar Kenneth Brissette has pleaded not guilty to extortion charges for allegedly pressuring the Boston Calling music festival to hire union stagehands. So has Timothy Sullivan, a top aide to Mayor Marty Walsh. All of this has brought scrutiny to Walsh’s ties to organized labor. He previously led the Boston Building Trades.

Harrington, meanwhile, contends he was only doing what he thought best for his members, and said in court he did not believe at the time that the union’s actions broke the law.


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com