September 21, 2010
Members of RWDSU Local 220 at the Mott’s plant in Williamson NY voted to accept a new contract and to end their strike against Mott's.
Among the provisions of the new agreement are restored wage levels and the continuation of the pension plan. The Mott’s workers had returned to work September 20, 2010, on what would have been the 121st day of the strike. The workers went on strike on May 23, 2010.
By Maggie Astor
AUGUST 7 -- More than 300 Mott’s workers at a plant in Williamson, N.Y., have been on strike for nearly three months now, and the deadlock shows no signs of abating. Out of 305 workers on strike, only seven have crossed picket lines — a 98 percent retention rate, according to Peter Montaldano, an organizer for the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.
Representatives for Mott’s and the union representing the workers — the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union Local 220 — met “briefly” on Monday, July 19, but “no progress” was made, Montaldano said.
By Maggie Astor
New York Communities for Change and thousands of Brooklyn residents are mobilizing against the opening of a WalMart in the East New York neighborhood.
Between 60 and 70 East New York residents rallied in May, and most recently, they gathered in front of City Hall on June 23 with representatives from NYCC, the Working Families Party, RWDSU, SEIU local 32BJ, the New York City Council Progressive Caucus, and several New York City politicians, including City Council speaker Christine Quinn. Organizers have also collected 7,000 petition signatures, and a Facebook group titled “The LAST thing Brooklyn needs is a WALMART!” has over 1,300 members.
Organizers cited WalMart’s low wages and mistreatment of employees as the reason for their opposition. Pat Boone, acting president of New York Communities for Change, referred especially to the pending class-action lawsuit against WalMart, which is the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in history.
On Saturday, June 26, District Attorney Kathleen Rice spoke at a rally with striking Mott's plant workers in Williamson. Here is a short (under 1 minute) video of her speech produced by RWDSU: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2LyvKx0keA&feature=player_embedded
Candidate for New York State Attorney General Kathleen Rice joined the picket line at a Mott’s processing plant June 26 to support workers protesting layoffs, lower pay, and cuts to benefits.
“Corporate profits are up, workers pay is down. Is that fair?” she said to hundreds of Mott’s workers who called back: “No!” Rice continued: “I am going to stand with you until they give you what you deserve.”
Rice is currently District Attorney for Nassau County – that’s a long way from the Mott’s plan in Williamson, N.Y., close to Rochester, N.Y. But Rice has a long history of going out of her way to fight for workers rights.
JUNE 23, CITY HALL -- Union activists continue to fight plans by Wal-Mart to open a new store in New York City.
“Wal-Mart has not changed and neither have we, “ said Murray Morrissey, Secretary Treasurer of Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “We will never let them get away with what they have gotten away with in other parts of the country.”
Wal-Mart has tried and failed for years to open a store in New York City. But the retailer hasn’t given up. Wal-Mart is now planning to become a major retail tenant in at Gateway II, a massive new project planned for Brooklyn by the Related Companies on an “as-of-right” site already zoned for the construction, according to coverage in Crain’s New York Business. That means the project will need fewer approvals to go forward.
In response to Wal-Mart’s plans, more than 100 union protesters chanted “Fughgeddaboudit!” the steps of City Hall. That translates to: “forget about it.”
Union activists oppose the planned store because of Wal-Mart’s terrible record on workers rights. For example, the company faces a potential $2 billion in fines in Minnesota for illegal practices including unpaid wages.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum with Mayor Robert Duffy
Visiting the Mott's Strikers on June 15, 2010
RWDSU Local 220 Members (Williamson, NY)
By Summer Brennan
At a press conference held on the steps of City Hall today May 25th, workers, community groups, and elected officials met to launch the Living Wage NYC campaign, spearheaded by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), and City Council Members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma.
The campaign, which aims to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, advocates for New York City subsidies for economic development to create living wage jobs. According to the campaign, the bill will guarantee that when the city gives businesses public subsidies, the jobs they create will pay at least a living wage. The purpose of the new law is to ensure that New York's economy recovers through an investment in rebuilding the middle class jobs needed to thrive in the 21st Century.
Melissa Pena from Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW celebrates with Jose Peralta as he wins a senatorial seat March 16, 2010. The overwhelmingly Democratic 13th State Senate District showed Mr. Peralta with 66 percent of the vote. As Senator, Peralta will now represent parts of Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Corona. Besides supporting candidates running for office, Local 338 political action team works closely with legislators at every level to ensure that important issues to members are addressed. The reception at Grand Rancho Jubilee in East Elmhurst for Senator Elect Peralta was packed with union officials.
By: Bendix Anderson
On February 23, New York City police officers arrested millionaire David Cohen, owner of the Mystique Boutique retail chain, in Manhattan. The crime? Cohen allegedly paid workers less than minimum wage, failed to pay overtime, and even threatened and attempted to bribe witnesses to keep them from talking to investigators.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo ordered the arrest. “When you arrest a guy, you get his attention,” says Cuomo. “Enforce the law and people will follow the law.” Cuomo has a long history of fighting for the rights of workers like the employees at Mystique.
Protests, Lawsuits Hit SoHo Retailers
Carolina Ferreria worked more than 60 hours a week at the Amsterdam Boutique on Broadway in SoHo. She earned $8.50 an hour and never earned a penny of the overtime pay she is entitled to under the law.
Local 338 members along with 10,000 participants walked along Queens Boulevard to fight cancer on Sunday October 18, 2009. Almost $1,000,000 was expected to be collected at this 16th annual Queens event. Similar walks were scheduled across the country. The Queens walk began at 11 a.m. in front of Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens and participants walked along Queens Blvd. to Junction Blvd.
In 2008, nearly 600,000 walkers across the country joined the American Cancer Society in a united fight against breast cancer raising over $60 million. That year in New York and New Jersey, walkers at 28 events raisedmore than $18 million.
Almost 1,400 women in Queens are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.And every year, more than 300 women in the borough lose their battle against the disease. Making Strides is a time to share in the goal to end a disease that threatens the lives of so many people.
As politicians and labor leaders were falling over each other at a City Hall news conference to say how much they were in solidarity with Stella D’oro workers in the Bronx – and how they would “stand by” them – managers on 237th Street were shutting the plant down and putting 155 people out of work. Mike Filippou, a lead mechanic at the plant for 14 years and Local 50’s chief shop steward at the plant, described what happened when he got back up to the Bronx after the news conference ended.
“When the 3pm shift left the plant, the managers wouldn’t let in the workers who had come to work the next shift,” he said. “They said, ‘you’re not working today.’ They surprised us today,” he continued. “They didn’t let anyone in to work, just a few people to pick up things from their lockers.”
“People started screaming, ‘we’re workers, united and we’ll never be defeated,” he said. “There was crying. It was so bad. It was a very emotional day today.” The shift that was turned back at the door included about 50 workers, most of them women, most immigrants – but in contrast to many in New York, these immigrant workers had held their jobs for decades and were making upwards of $18 an hour. No more.
Filippou got the call that something was afoot at the plant in the middle of the news conference, he said. He headed back uptown with Local 50 President Joyce Alston, who, standing outside the gated plant, who had harsh words for Brynwood Partners, the hedge fund that bought the company two years ago and brought on the longest strike in company history. “In over 30 years of negotiating contracts, these are the most arrogant and egotistical people I’ve ever dealt with,” she said.
What’s next? A rally has been called at the plant for Friday, October 9th from 3pm to 7pm. Filippou and members of the Stella D’oro workers solidarity committee say that machinery purchased by Brynwood to upgrade the plant was bought courtesy of New York City taxpayer funding, as part of a deal to keep jobs in the Bronx. Now that the company has broken the deal, they say, the machinery shouldn’t be allowed to follow the new company’s owners to Ohio. They want the equipment impounded. Saying the same thing was local Assemblyman Jose Rivera, who put out a press release today calling Brynwood a “vulture equity company,” and saying he demands that Mayor Bloomberg have the machinery seized. Whether this will add up to enough to help the workers is an open question. Filippou, ever the optimist, declares, “I say it’s not over yet.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Walmart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management following the November 28, 2008, death of an employee at its Valley Stream, New York, store.
The worker died of asphyxiation after he was knocked to the ground and trampled by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers who surged into the store for its annual “Blitz Friday” pre-holiday sales event.
OSHA’s inspection found that the store’s employees were exposed to being crushed by the crowd due to the store’s failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management principles.
This failure includes providing employees with the necessary training and tools to safely manage the large crowd of shoppers.
OSHA issued Walmart one serious citation under its general duty clause for exposing workers to the recognized hazard of being crushed by the crowd.
The citation carries a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum penalty amount for a serious violation allowed under the law. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.
“Effective planning and crowd management could have prevented this incident and its grave consequences,” says Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “Walmart must now take steps to ensure that a situation such as this one never happens again.”
Solidarity with the Stella D'Oro Strikers
by Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez
Legal arguments and lobbying are not enough. The fully legal route is a loser's game, because they can afford to wait. The people with deep pockets can wait it out, and the people lose faith. We have to push a lot more envelopes.
Look at history: social movements created laws, and we should be creating new laws and new social movements. These workers at Stella D'oro are giving up their livelihoods in the pursuit of dignity and decent wages and benefits. How do we, as a society, stand together with people who refuse to be treated as extensions of machines -- cookie makers -- and not as persons? We need to humanize the whole system.
What kind of a society are we part of? The labor movement has to make that decision. The fight for dignity is a lot bigger than crafting a new contract. And once we have a contract, what does that mean for people who don't? People have to start saying: what kind of a world do I want to build? What kind of a world do I want to leave to my children? Not treating workers with dignity is doubly destructive, because those who take away workers' dignity also find that their own dignity and humanity is gone.
Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, President of the Montefiore Hospital Chapter of NYSNA, is a member of the Stella D'Oro Strike Support Committee. The workers at Stella D'Oro's flagship plant at 237th Street and Broadway have been on strike since August 13. For more on the strike, click here for their official website.