Calling Immigration on Organizing Workers
Tate's Cookies threatens to call ICE if they vote to organize
Southampton is the playground for the uber-rich and famous and is also the home of Tate’s Bake Shop. The small bakery has become a national brand with its cookies being sold in many supermarkets around the country including Walmart.
Since its founding in 2000, the company has grown into a top-rated cookie company and was bought by the snack giant Mondelez International in 2018. Union members might remember Mondelez for moving the production of Oreo cookies from union workers in the United States to Mexico.
Now employees at Tate’s are facing some of the anti-union moves that Mondelez is becoming famous for. The employees say that management has hired anti-union consultants to stop the 450 workers from organizing with the International Union of Allied, Novelty, and Production Workers. The workers also allege that the union-busting consultants have warned them that if they go ahead with an organizing effort they will be fired or worse- deported.
“Workers were told that if they unionize, the union is going to look into their immigration documents and that if they don’t have the proper documents they’re going to be ‘sent back,’” says Anthony Miranti, a delegate with the Eastern States Joint Board of the International Union of Allied, Novelty and Production Workers in an interview with Gothamist. “We’ve assured them and given them literature right off the website of the federal government showing this is not the case.”
Under the National Labor Relations Act, undocumented workers have the same right to organize that other workers in the country would have. However, workers are still scared. One worker, who asked Gothamist not to use his name told the reporter that the threat has made people scared to talk and express themselves.
Cosmo Lubrano, the business agent for the Eastern States Joint Board said the union doesn’t investigate members' immigration status, "We have the assumption that the company did their due diligence and the person has the right to work in this country."
According to the union, Tate’s has hired Carlos Flores, a California-based union-buster to lead the effort. According to his Linkedin profile, Flores has worked as a union-buster for 14 years. He also claims to be an “X union leader, shop steward with the Teamsters.”
Workers at Tate’s told Newsday that they are tired of being mistreated. “They exploit people as much as they can." Newsday also is reporting that workers told them Tate’s management barred workers from taking bathroom breaks, forced them to work overtime, and required employees to work in unsafe conditions during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers have also been forced to sign petitions from management and their union-busting representatives that speak out against the union. Workers were told if they didn’t sign, they risked losing their benefits. The union also says that management and the union-busters told workers if they vote to join the union, they will be fired six months after the vote.
Unfortunately, threats that workers will be deported if they organize are a common tool that employers with a large number of immigrant workers often use to keep their employees silent. Bosses even use this tactic to keep their workers quiet about not being paid the minimum wage or not being paid overtime.
The union has filed a complaint with the NLRB listing 10 things that they believe Tate did to violate the law.
According to the National Labor Relations Act, illegal employer conduct includes threatening employees with the loss of their jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union, threatening to close a plant if workers unionize, and questioning workers "about their union sympathies or activities in circumstances that tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights under the act.”
The NLRB is sending out ballots for employees to vote on joining the union on March 26th and voting will continue until April 21st.