Unionized workers at the Hunts Point Produce Market say they deserve a bigger piece of the pie from their employers, for the risks they have taken to keep New Yorkers fed since the start of the pandemic.
Members of Teamsters Local 202 gathered in front of the Market entrance on Edgewater Road in Hunts Point on Jan. 17, to demand the roughly 300 businesses in the country’s biggest wholesale Market share the $15M they the federal government allotted them as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.
The union says that workers’ average base salary is between $18 and $21 an hour. Local 202 represents about 1,400 workers at the Market, who are asking for raises of up to $1 an hour and better health benefits.
The strike takes effect tonight at midnight.
Daniel Kane Jr., longtime president of Teamsters Local 202, says the workers are long overdue for a raise, and that New Yorkers underestimate the importance of the workers in their daily lives.
“Essential workers can’t avoid the pandemic,” said Kane on a phone call. “They deserve a hell of a lot more than we’re asking. You’re just finding out they’re essential. They’ve always been essential. People don’t think about who brought them their food.”
City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. and Assemblywoman Amanda Septimo attended the Sunday morning rally to support the workers. Septimo, whose grandfather runs a business in the Market, said the workers are overdue the small raise they are requesting.
“I hope that those $15 million dollars are used at least in part to give those workers the wages that they deserve,” said Septimo, adding that it is a small price for owners to pay, given “all the work that they keep doing.”
Although the State doesn’t have the power to mandate that private employers raise wages, she said, “We need to bear in mind how they treat workers, and I think that’s where we’ll be impactful. Every time we’re looking at state subsidies, we’re looking at tax breaks, we’re looking at investing in companies.”
Additional reporting by Syed Haq.