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Victorious Produce Workers Inspire New York City With Six-Day Strike

After six days of striking, the drivers and warehouse workers who keep New York City fed have won. The result of their strike? A contract that doubled management’s wage offer and defeated a healthcare cost increase.

Explaining that they had been working throughout the pandemic and putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones at risk, the strikers at Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx demanded an $1-an-hour increase and no increased cost for healthcare. The strikers are members of Teamsters Local 202.

The Hunts Point Produce Market, which is the world’s largest wholesale produce market, is responsible for packing and delivering 60 percent of the fruits and vegetables that go to grocery stores and restaurants in New York City.

“The companies stopped providing PPE [personal protective equipment] months ago, back in September,” said Frankie, a Local 202 who has been with his company for 28 years.

“They don’t even require workers to wear masks at work,” he said. “They also took the hand washing stations out back in September. It’s like they decided that COVID was over. Meanwhile the companies received $15 million in PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loans each! I’m striking to show my daughters that just because we are poor does not mean we don’t stand up for what we deserve,” Frankie added.

The strike began on January 17. The next evening, police showed up in riot gear saying that striking workers picketing in the entrances would be arrested. When the strikers refused, police arrested five people.

Videos of the attack went viral, and the community rushed to defend the strikers. In particular, the NYC Democratic Socialists of America collected more than $31,000 that went to hand warmers, food, and firewood.

Even Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who does not represent the district but lives nearby, came by to show her support.

On January 23, crowds gathered to discuss the terms and vote on the contract. The terms had been met, and the outcome was celebrated.

“It’s not the dollar we wanted, but it’s a win,” Jose, a driver, said, “and next time we will fight even harder. I’m glad we did this, because before we felt like nobody cared about us, nobody knew us.”

“Now we know that New York City supports Black and immigrant workers, some of us formerly incarcerated, many of us just trying to feed our kids and make a better life for them. Hopefully other workers will get inspired to fight for what they deserve, by seeing us do it.”

Lead image: Twitter

Patricia Grisafi

Written by Patricia Grisafi