“We fought ’em hard”: Hunt Point produced workers toast victory after approving contract

The union, representing 1,400 workers in the Hunt Point Produce Market, produced open champagne bottles as it ended its nearly three-week strike for increased salaries in its next three-year contract.

Warehouse workers and drivers collectively created Teamster Local 202 which welcomes the ratification of the contract on Saturday. This came after taking votes at 10 am in a so-called neutral zone within the distribution hub’s property. The contract was approved by 97% of the union’s members.

Shortly after ratification, the members adopted a victory outside the strike area, which they drew for nearly a week as cars honed their horns in solidarity, and the crowd chanted “See Se Pude” (“Yes We Can”) Slogans of As members raised a glass at the celebration, another member was seen holding a toy replica of Majolnir, the legendary hammer used by Thor of Marvel Comics.

The ratification of the contract ends the strike that began on January 17, when the union negotiating team could not form a consensus with the Hunts Point Cooperative Board. Union members were asked to increase their hourly pay by $ 1 and paid .60 cents more to cover their health insurance, stressing that workers continued to work throughout the epidemic . The company initially offered a 32 percent hourly wage increase and 60 percent per hour towards their health insurance coverage. The first strike since 1986 has raised concerns over how disruptive it is to the city’s food supply, where 60% of its fruits and vegetables come from the mass market.

“Thirty-two cents, when people are risking their lives in an epidemic, it wasn’t great,” Charles Macadio, a union trustee. And they could not understand it. You were giving us less in this contract than we were receiving in the previous contract. “

According to Teamster Local 202 president Daniel Kane Jr., the two sides returned to the table at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Under the conditions, workers will be paid a minimum of 70 cents per hour in the first year, 50 cents more in the second year and 65 cents more in the third year. He will also receive a lump sum of $ 1,300 in 2023. Workers will also receive the same health insurance coverage without paying the increase. Workers will start working on Sunday after the contract becomes effective. The deal is not expected to be retroactive.

“It’s not often that activists take their fate into their own hands, and decide to put their hands together to fight for a better tomorrow,” Ken Jr. said at a news conference on Saturday. “And these people did it. And I hope it resonates with the workers all over the country because our members are essential, and people of decent, hardworking families.”

The extra pay was good news for Bronx resident and Jeff Ratliff, who works at the “Potato House” inside the hub, who said the new contract was reasonable, given the physical demands placed on workers.

Ratliff said, “You’ve got dignity by yourself, you’ve got that honor, where you work.” “Sometimes you work for companies, and […] You are like a machine for them. Nothing.”

He added, “You [are] You are more at home in this market […] Who wants to come to a house where you don’t get any respect from your children? “

Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., representing the Hunts Point area, said the job and the union meant a lot to his father.

Salamanca Jr. said at the rally, “I remember my father coming in at three in the morning. I remember my father coming home to talk about the struggles and how tired they were. But he was proud.” “You gave a Puerto Rican man without any education, who is my father, an opportunity. And my father was able to provide for my family. We got healthcare, he brought food to the table. And today I’m here Am; this young South Bronx man, because of Local 202 as a member of the New York City Council. “

Salamanca was one of the junior MPs who pledged their support behind the striking workers along with Assemblyman Amanda Septimo, and representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Richie Torres.

During the six days, where employees went out in the cold, missing one day’s pay each day to protest the company’s pay, support for them intensified, with local elected officials such as Ocasio-Cortez and Torres Also in a letter in the US raising the concerns of workers. Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board. Most of the members in the 24/7 industrial hub made between $ 18 to $ 21 per hour.

For many, the strike represented a watershed moment for essential workers who did not stop doing their work during the epidemic, where they were lauded for helping to keep the lights on throughout the crisis. The epidemic affected workers, who remained open despite workers becoming ill or passing out.

Union Vice President Leonardo Cevidio said, “We lost six people during COVID who are dead. They never made it home. Some of their wives had died.” “We cannot attend a funeral because there were no funeral services.”

For Sverdio, an employee of a distribution hub of more than 30 years, the epidemic lit a fire for a labor movement that he thinks will land nationally and resonate with young people.

“They know the struggle of their ancestors and ancestors from whichever country they come from, who came to America and suffered. And they worked hard, and they built the American dream. Without conflict, there is no crack. And that’s it. To understand. These youth came here today, (and) they absorb that knowledge. And now we’re going to start a movement. It’s called the new labor movement. “

Regarding the company, Sverdio said, “We hit them hard.”

In a statement, Hunts Point Cooperative Board co-chairman Stephen Katzman, who s. Katzman doubles as the owner of Produce, saying the resolution allows the hub to help feed the city.

“We are very happy to negotiate a new contract that provides more than 10% increase in hourly wages and fringe benefits to our workers over the next three years,” Katzman said in the statement. Under three times the current cost of living increase, we think this is a very fair and equitable deal. “

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