Submitted on Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:00pm
By Lawrence Goun and Biko Koenig
Workers at Tom Cat Bakery sharpened their resistance against company attacks this summer with a solidarity BBQ in front of the Queens-based factory. Tom Cat's private equity owners, Ancor and Merit Capital, are seeking devastating health care cuts and other takeaways from workers in contract negotiations with the Bakery Union. Dual-card IWW members are leading a struggle to build long-term power and secure a good contract, after beating back a de-certification attempt from a mob-dominated union earlier this year.
“These out-of-town investors already have their mansions, while we barely can support our families. The cuts they're demanding are impossible and we're united against them,” said Marino Aquino, a night-shift packer at Tom Cat and a member of the IWW. “Our unity is our strength and we will keep the pressure on until justice prevails.”
Submitted on Thu, 10/04/2012 - 7:25pm
By to Focus on the Food Chain - September 27, 2012
A federal judge has awarded a group of immigrant workers over $950,000 in unpaid wages for work at a Queens-based beverage distributor. A group of Latino warehouse workers and truck drivers brought the class action lawsuit against Beverage Plus and its owners after years of disrespect and systematic violations of state and federal law, violations which the judge found were intentional. The workers are members of Focus on the Food Chain, a coalition promoting good jobs and a sustainable food system in New York City's growing food processing and distribution sector.
"My co-workers and I were deprived of our pay and badly exploited but we finally learned about our rights," said Richard Merino, who drove a delivery truck at Beverage Plus for six years and was a named plaintiff in the case. "We stood up together and now justice has arrived for us and more importantly for our families."
Beverage Plus employees were worked as many as twelve hours a day, deprived of overtime, and subjected to unlawful deductions from their pay.
Submitted on Wed, 05/23/2012 - 8:55pm
By Daniel Gross - May 7, 2012
We are overjoyed to announce the biggest victory yet from Focus on the Food Chain! Workers at Flaum Appetizing, with your unwavering support, have won their campaign with an exemplary global agreement. Our members have recovered $577,000 in unpaid wages and compensation for retaliation along with a binding code of conduct ensuring Flaum comports with all workplace rights going forward including anti-discrimination and health & safety protections.
You can check out some of the press coverage on today's victory:
New York Times: Kosher-Food Manufacturer to Pay $577,000 in Settlement
Crain's New York: Settlement paves way for end of hummus boycott
Jewish Daily Forward: Uri L'Tzedek Celebrates Flaums Victory
For over a decade, workers at Flaum Appetizing worked grueling sixty to eighty hour work weeks without overtime pay and sometimes not even the minimum wage. Latino workers were subjected to constant verbal harassment and forced to work at unsafe speeds. Focus on the Food Chain, a joint project of Brandworkers and the NYC IWW, helped the workers launch a powerful campaign that persuaded over 120 grocery store locations to remove Flaum products from their shelves and convinced the world's largest kosher cheese company to stop using Flaum as a distributor until workers' rights were respected. In the process, Flaum workers won a precedent-setting victory at the Labor Board in D.C. helping workers nationwide fend off unfounded allegations into their immigration status.
Submitted on Sun, 04/01/2012 - 7:50pm
By Daniel Gross - March 29, 2012
I write with great emotion, gratitude, and hope for the future. Nothing has reached as deep into the soul of the Brandworkers community as the crushing death of Juan Baten in a Brooklyn tortilla factory at the beginning of last year. And nothing has fortified our determination for change as much as the courageous efforts of Juan's widow, Rosario Ramirez, to achieve justice for Juan and their daughter Daisy Stephanie.
Juan lost his life because of his employer's reckless disregard for worker health & safety, a problem of endemic proportions in New York City's food processing factories and distribution warehouses. OSHA, the federal workplace safety agency, concluded that Juan's death would have been prevented had the employer placed a legally required and simple machine guard on the mixer that brutally ended Juan's life. After Juan's death, the factory owner Erasmo Ponce and fellow managers threatened workers if they cooperated with investigators, lied about Juan's death, and even disrespected Rosario at Juan's funeral.
Who would have challenged the employer's false narrative in the media and to government authorities if not for you, the Brandworkers community?
Who would have raised thousands of dollars for Rosario and Daisy if not for you, the Brandworkers community?
Who would have persistently advocated for Erasmo Ponce's arrest to the Office of the Attorney General if not for you, the Brandworkers community?
After this lengthy struggle and with your accompaniment, on Tuesday Rosario finally got some of the solace she so profoundly deserves. Authorities arrested sweatshop owner Erasmo Ponce on 26 felony counts and 23 misdemeanor counts, including falsifying business documents, wage-related violations, and misconduct in connection with the unemployment and workers compensation systems.
Submitted on Sun, 03/11/2012 - 3:11pm
By Daniel Gross - March 9, 2012
Members of Focus on the Food Chain at one of New York City's largest industrial bakeries launched a campaign on Wednesday to win respect at work in the face of an aggressive attempt by the factory's new private equity owners to degrade their jobs. Drivers at Queens-based Tom Cat Bakery, a leading supplier of artisanal breads to many of the New York metro area's finest restaurants and gourmet food retailers, are forced to work under a highly abusive manager and are being threatened with severe health care cutbacks.
The Tom Cat workers, mostly Latin American immigrants, gathered yesterday in Long Island City with worker and student allies representing a variety of groups including the Occupy Wall Street Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside, the Laundry Workers Center, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, and Domestic Workers United.
Together, workers and supporters marched to the plant where the drivers read and delivered a Declaration of Dignity, outlining workers' expectations of management in the area of respectful treatment, affordable family health care, and equal treatment of all workers. The action was an incredibly inspiring start to the Tom Cat workers' march to justice and represents the latest effort in the growing movement to transform New York City's food processing factories and distribution warehouses.
New York City's food processing and distribution sector supports the livelihoods of 35,000 workers and their families, yet the sector is increasingly characterized by a business model that relies on low quality jobs and mistreatment of a largely immigrant workforce. Focus on the Food Chain is a member-led campaign of workers in the sector organizing to promote good jobs and a sustainable local food system. The Focus campaign is a joint project of Brandworkers and the NYC Industrial Workers of the World labor union.