January 15, 2015
By Neal Tepel
Bronx, NY – The members of Teamsters Local 202 at Hunts Point Market voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. Negotiations broke down after management walked away from the table with a final offer of raises that do not keep up with the rising cost of living. Owners also want workers to turn over part of their paycheck for health insurance and preserve a system that pays some workers less than others doing the same job.
“These businesses have never done better, but they are refusing to pay a fair wage to the people who do the work,” said Teamsters Local 202 President Daniel Kane Jr. “We live in this city and just like everyone else our rent keeps going up, our cost of living keeps going up, and our wages just aren’t keeping up. These workers feed New York – they should be able to put food on the table too.”
The workers operate the South Bronx produce market, one of the Bronx's largest employers, which handles much of the fruits and vegetables sold in the New York area. Work could stop at the market as soon as Friday morning. The Hunts Point Teamsters have not gone on strike in nearly three decades.
“When the recession hit, we compromised to support the business,” says William Brown, a long-time Hunts Point Market worker. “Now that business is booming, the bosses keep demanding more.”
“But we are fighting back,” said Ray Ortiz, who also works at the market. “95 percent of us voted to authorize this strike and we are going to stand together until we get justice for our families.”
Hunts Point Market provides fruit and vegetables for many of the region’s grocers and restaurants – and it’s a lucrative business. The businesses average $2.4 billion in annual revenues. Many owners at the market are millionaires who have prospered as worker wages have stagnated.
“We would like nothing better than to be at work, being paid a fair wage,” said Kane. “We reached this point because the owners are asking more of these workers than they can give.”