“That’s Upside Down”: AOC & Other Lawmakers Back Hunts Point Workers’ Strike


Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wears a mask as she speaks into a megaphone at a strike outside the Hunts Point Produce Market on January 17th.


Consultant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wears a masks as she speaks right into a megaphone at a strike outdoors the Hunts Level Produce Market on January seventeenth.

David Cruz

Elected officers, together with Bronx/Queens Consultant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at the moment are backing the employees’ strike on the Hunts Level Produce Market, the place staff have entered day 4 of a strike over wages.

Some 1,400 staff represented by the Teamsters Native 202 union, comprised of warehouse staff and drivers on the gargantuan industrial website within the Bronx, assist transfer round 300,000 kilos of vegetables and fruit each day. The Hunts Level Produce Market is a cooperative of 30 retailers who buy produce from farms and importers and distributes the products to grocers, eating places, and extra. All advised, they deal with 60% of the town’s produce.

On January seventeenth, members negotiating for a $1 hourly improve went on strike following a stalemate throughout negotiations with market house owners. And with every single day that passes, the results of diminished output from the market can be felt by supermarkets and eating places that depend upon them.

“In the event you discover that aisles of produce are little low and also you see the stuff beginning to flip a bit bit, you understand that is once you’re gonna discover,” Raymond Rivera, a driver and union member, mentioned.

“If you’re standing on this line, you are not simply asking for $1, you’re asking for transformational change to your lives, over the lives of each meals employee throughout this nation, for youths or meals staff throughout the nation,” Ocasio-Cortez mentioned, flanked by New York Metropolis Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and state Assemblymember Amanda Septimo on a frigid Wednesday evening outdoors the big, city-owned property. “As a result of there’s a whole lot of issues the wrong way up proper now in our financial system. And a type of issues which might be the wrong way up […] is the truth that an individual who helps get the meals to your desk can’t feed their very own child. That is the wrong way up.”

Negotiations stopped almost two weeks in the past after members had pushed for a $1 improve plus better well being protection. Homeowners returned to the desk with a 32 cents per hour wage improve, and 68 cents going in direction of well being protection.

On Wednesday evening, dozens of staff stood outdoors their office in solidarity, huddled round bonfires as music performed and carrying protest indicators, with a large inflatable rat looming close by. Workers spent the evening chatting amongst themselves, outraged over the corporate’s lack of progress over the union.

For Francisco Flores, a 26-year worker on the website, the counter-offer is a slap within the face for a lot of staff who stepped up in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, which didn’t halt operations on the website.

“We have had our contract disputes with them […] it has been totally different this yr with the pandemic and truly seeing and realizing a few of your mates that you have labored with in right here for 28 years die, after which have mates of yours, not coming to work as a result of they’re dwelling quarantined, sick, makes an enormous distinction,” Flores advised Gothamist/WNYC. “After which we’re right here every single day in the course of the pandemic, we attempt to not miss as a lot as we are able to, as a result of we’d like the cash. And we get no type of thanks.”

Flores, a married father of three children dwelling within the Throggs Neck part of the Bronx, mentioned all through his time working on the firm he is been dwelling paycheck to paycheck. He cannot even get monetary savings. With every single day that staff are on strike their pay is docked.

“I’ve even argued with my father infrequently. He tells me, ‘You bought to attempt to economize.’ I am like, ‘Dad, I can not. I do not understand how you probably did it,'” Flores recalled. “However on this financial system and the best way issues are going, they do not provide you with room. And I am like, although we’d get a bit little bit of a increase, the whole lot else goes again up. I have been to the grocery store with $100, and I used to come back out with 4 or 5, six luggage. Now I come out with two or three.”

Charles Machadio, a trustee with the union, mentioned the supply is just honest for the reason that staff had been deemed important in the course of the pandemic.

“We’re not being, like, grasping,” Machadio mentioned. “The lads actually deserve a $3 or $4 increase for coming right here risking their lives. However we’re saying give them $1 increase and pay the medical health insurance and we do the contract and go dwelling.”

In a earlier assertion, the corporate mentioned that the present financial local weather can’t enable for any improve past what was supplied.

“Even with the continued uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, we’re providing our devoted staff wage and profit will increase over the subsequent three years which might be a a number of of the present annual value of dwelling,” an announcement from Hunts Level Produce Market reads. “Underneath our supply we’ll proceed to pay roughly $10K per worker/yr for pension advantages, and $15K per worker per yr for healthcare advantages along with base wage will increase.  Sadly, the union walked away from the bargaining desk 12 days in the past and since then has targeted solely on bringing its members out on strike, which is dangerous to the members and the neighborhood.”