By Mike Talavera
Last Saturday, 1,400 workers with the Teamsters Local 202 in New York City went on strike against Hunts Point Market employers for the first time in 35 years after being offered raises less than a dollar. In the early morning on Tuesday, New York police made several arrests when they attacked workers who had taken to the streets to block incoming trucks going to the market. Despite this repression, strikers have said they will continue the picket until they receive a $1.60 raise.
The employers who operate Hunts Point Market have received millions in Paycheck Protection Program loans as part of US imperialism’s COVID relief stimulus package, while workers only received a $600 check from the government in the most recent round of payments last December. This economic inequality is rooted in the exploitation of workers by the ruling class, which is enforced by the police.
The police attack on Tuesday broke the line and allowed trucks into the market lot, but they remain unloaded as the workers continue to strike. Later in the week, a Teamster train conductor turned around 21 freight cars heading to the market in solidarity with the strike. A popular chant heard at the pickets has been “One day longer! One day stronger!”
Nearly 60% of all fruits and vegetables that go to restaurants and grocery stores in New York City pass through Hunts Point Market, and the union has predicted that the strike will greatly impact the food supply of the tristate area. The workers on strike are made up of produce handlers, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and others. Six Teamsters have died from COVID-related causes since the pandemic began.
The union set the $1.60 raise goal and will likely call to end the strike if the employers agree to it, but the workers, with their influence on the regional food supply and the solidarity of fellow workers, are positioned to demand much more.
“I know what I deserve and what I should earn,” one striking worker said. “I feed New York. When you go to your grocer tonight and you get your apple and your bananas and your organic kale, you can think about me and the drivers at Hunts Point Produce Market that bring it in every day and work through a pandemic.”
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