Police Arrest 5 Striking Workers
Teamsters at Hunts Point Market are on strike, demand $1 raise
A strike at the largest produce market in the world, Hunts Point Market, turned ugly after five picketers were arrested early Tuesday morning. According to the union, police showed up in riot gear and outnumbered the peaceful protestors by a 2-1 ratio.
The police were seen on video telling the protestors that they were blocking traffic before the arrests occurred. It appears on the video that the workers were attempting to stop trucks from entering the market. As police attempted to move the striking workers, they could be heard chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” According to the NY Daily News, it is unclear whether those arrested have been charged.
“Hands up don’t shoot!” We condemn the arrests of several peaceful strikers on the @Teamsters picket line tonight at Hunts Point Market. These essential workers deserve their $1 raise pic.twitter.com/PZhdvUe20v
— Teamsters JC 16 (@TeamstersJC16) January 19, 2021
The 1,400 warehouse workers, drivers, and members of Teamsters Local 202 went on strike on Saturday after the union and the company failed to reach an agreement on a raise. The union was asking for a $1 an hour raise, but the company rejected that offer. A $1 raise would be in line with what other union essential workers in the food industry got during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been out here breaking our backs every night, no matter rain or snow, sick or healthy, to support our family. We were here during Sandy and COVID. That’s why we are fighting for a dollar.” - Gerson Castillo
Hunts Point Market provides food for supermarkets and restaurants in 49 states and claims to service 22 million people. It also provides 60% of New York City’s produce. Without Teamsters Local 202 members, this food would not get sorted or delivered. They are also essential workers who worked throughout the pandemic to keep supermarket shelves stocked. Since they work in a warehouse with a product that has a relatively short shelf life, they could not work from home. According to the union, the average worker makes between $18 and $21 an hour, while employers in the market make billions of dollars in annual sales and received $15 million in forgivable PPP loans during the pandemic. The market is made up of over 50 independent wholesale food businesses.
“It is outrageous that after being called essential heroes for months, several of our members were arrested while peacefully protesting for a raise today,” said Kane. “These are the essential workers who went to work every day through the worst of the pandemic to feed New York. All they are asking for is a dollar-an-hour raise so they can feed their families too. The fact that they were arrested on Martin Luther King Day reminds us what side of history we are on.”