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Donate to help fired warehouse workers

I'm an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) member. I worked hard to start the union strong, so that we would be strong in the end. And just like when we started, we've grown and become strong. Because in union there is strength.

--Eliezer Maca Gallardo

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Warehouse workers in New York City need your help in their fight against employers who have stolen their wages, thumbed their noses at labor laws, and vigorously fought against unionization. These workers have built the IWW Food and Allied Workers Union - I.U.460/640 against incredible odds, and still stand strong in the face of mass firings. They've shown how immigrant workers can fight sweatshop conditions to build a better future.

The Story at Handyfat

In August of 2005, Pablo Montes and Carlos Hidalgo, workers from Handyfat Trading Corp., attended a meeting at the Bushwick, Brooklyn, community organization Make the Road by Walking. They told the group about terrible working conditions: they worked 60 or more hours for a mere 280 dollars per week (at most $4.66/per hour with no overtime; in 2005, the New York State minimum wage was $6.00/hour); they had no benefits or sick days, and they were called "dirty Mexicans" and worse by an abusive manager. At that meeting, they agreed with Bert Picard and Billy J Randel, two IWW organizers and Make the Road members, to meet with the Handyfat workers, nine of whom joined the union. On December 5, 2005, the Handyfat workers were joined by over 50 supporters in a march to declare their IWW membership and demand that the owner observe the wage and hour law. By the end of the winter, the owner was paying legal wages, and the union had won a minority contract, complete with wage increases, sick days, vacation time, and other perks. More importantly, the threat of worker action on the job silenced their abusive manager.

The Story at Sunrise Plus (formerly known as EZ-Supply)

During 2006, the IWW organized workers in four more warehouses, all with similar sweatshop conditions. Sunrise Plus Corp., originally called E-Z Supply, is the largest of the five warehouses. Workers at E-Z Supply forced their employer to pay the legal wage and won an NLRB-supervised election on February 9, 2006. In November 2006, over a dozen EZ-Supply workers and 460/640 negotiating committee members faced off against their boss and hammered out a tentative contract that would have given workers two weeks of vacation, paid breaks, sick days, and 60 cent raises every six months. Just after Christmas, before the contract was formalized, EZ-Supply changed its name to Sunrise Plus and fired all the union workers – fifteen workers total. The next week, Handyfat followed suit and fired all six union workers. The employers' excuse: that the union workers failed to produce working papers. Legally, an employer must request proper documentation within the first 72 hours of work, not after workers exert their right to unionize. Most of the fired workers had worked for their companies for years, several for over a decade. All were fired in crass retaliation for exercising their rights to organize a union and to regain unpaid wages.

The Story at Amersino

In March and April, IWW members at Amersino Markieting Corp. engaged in wildcat strikes to defend coworkers from managements' abuses. The struggle reached a high point when Amersino's owner brought in a fictitious "night shift" to vote against the union in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-supervised election. The next day, he illegally fired several union leaders, two of whom the NLRB later ordered to be reinstated. The Amersino workers continue to organize and recently broke through the Chinese/Latino ethnic split common in these warehouses.

The Struggle Continues

The members of the IWW Food and Allied Workers Union remain strong. Nearly all of the fired workers have found new jobs while continuing their fight for reinstatement. José [Left in the above picture], 53, worked at Handyfat for 12 years, and despite his retaliatory firing, he takes pride in the union that he and his coworkers have built:

There was no one before us; we were the first ones. That's where [the union] grew from. And it makes me happy that it keeps growing, that there's more members so that there'll be more strength and unity, so that they won't keep on exploiting people because there's too much exploitation.

The NLRB and the US Department of Justice have launched investigations into the companies' illegal request for working papers and the subsequent firings. The NLRB has already issued complaints against Handyfat and Sunrise Plus (EZ-Supply). However, the union is not relying on the courts, where justice is denied through delay. The union organized two marches through Brooklyn, in which hundreds of participants demanded justice for the fired workers. A dozen restaurants have switched from Sunrise Plus to other suppliers. And the union continues to organize, make new contacts, and grow.

The workers from the IWW Food and Allied Workers Union ask for your solidarity. The union has financially supported twenty-one fired workers and another five whose hours were dramatically reduced. Our strike fund is in heavy debt and we are looking to you for additional resources to sustain our campaign.

We ask that you consider making a contribution. Here's how your donation will be spent:
  • Relief Fund: rebuilding our workers defense fund. Our goal is to put 25,000 dollars from contributions into the fund over the next four months.

  • Organizing: helping to defray the costs of an organizing drive, i.e. transportation, literature and other campaign materials, and small stipends for worker-organizers when they take off from work on union business (the IWW Food and Allied Workers Union has no paid staff).

  • Overhead: rent for office space ($50/month) and other related costs, such a phone line and internet service. No more than 5% of donations will be spent on overhead costs.

Make an online contribution at http://www.iww.org/en/node/3166 or mail checks made to NYC IWW to the address below, with "460/640" in the memo line. Thank you in advance for your solidarity and generosity.

In Solidarity,

Alex van Schaick and Stephanie Basile
Solidarity Committee
IWW Food and Allied Workers Union, I.U. 460/640
P. O. Box 7430
J. A. F. Station, New York, NY 10116

[Crowd gathers at Amersino on the way to Handyfat, Feb. 2007]

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IWW NYC GMB
P. O. Box 7430
J. A. F. Station
New York, NY 10116