Hunts Point Strike Is an Example of the Bold Labor Action the Country Needs
(The Intercept) Far from the inaugural pomp, meanwhile, hundreds of striking workers at the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx, New York, were already demonstrating what the fight for workers’ rights looks like on the ground for those forced to work in perilous proximity throughout this pandemic.
Hunts Point is part of New York City’s most important food hub, handling most of the fruit and vegetables that get sold throughout the five boroughs. Its workers earned praise and press coverage for keeping the city fed as the public health crisis threatened supply chains.
Having risked their lives throughout the last year, the workers, members of Teamsters Local 202, sought a raise of a mere $1 per hour in their new contract. Negotiations broke down when management refused, offering an hourly boost of only 32 cents. The union members voted to go on strike, starting last Sunday — the first strike at the Hunts Point market in 35 years.
“We worked through a pandemic. I’ve been working here for 28 years, and it’s hard work,” said Ismael Cancela, a warehouse worker and Local 202 member. He told me that the offer of a 32-cents-per-hour-raise was a “slap in the face.”
After nearly a full week on the picket line, Teamsters leadership announced a tentative agreement had been reached. On Saturday morning, the strikers voted to approve their new contract, which includes a $1.85 wage increase over three years and an end to any out of pocket payments for family healthcare plans. While not the full $1 raise they had demanded and deserve, there can be little doubt that the conditions of the contract were considerably improved through the strike. Concerns among supporters have arisen about whether union leaders were willing to settle too early — a reminder of the importance of rank-and-file decision making — but the workers were nonetheless celebrating the new contract as a victory.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., brings coffee and hand warmers to workers on strike at Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, N.Y., on Jan. 20, 2021.
Photo: Courtesy Alex Moore/Teamsters Joint Council 16