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Industrial Workers of the World - NYC iu460



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Wobblies at Prominent New York Baking Company Heighten Struggle Against Private Equity Owners

Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:00:49 +0000

By Lawrence Goun and Biko Koenig

Workers at Tom Cat Bakery sharpened their resistance against company attacks this summer with a solidarity BBQ in front of the Queens-based factory. Tom Cat's private equity owners, Ancor and Merit Capital, are seeking devastating health care cuts and other takeaways from workers in contract negotiations with the Bakery Union. Dual-card IWW members are leading a struggle to build long-term power and secure a good contract, after beating back a de-certification attempt from a mob-dominated union earlier this year.

“These out-of-town investors already have their mansions, while we barely can support our families. The cuts they're demanding are impossible and we're united against them,” said Marino Aquino, a night-shift packer at Tom Cat and a member of the IWW. “Our unity is our strength and we will keep the pressure on until justice prevails.”

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Beverage Distribution Workers Win Nearly $1 Million in Wage Theft Case

Fri, 05 Oct 2012 00:25:16 +0000

(image) By to Focus on the Food Chain - September 27, 2012

A federal judge has awarded a group of immigrant workers over $950,000 in unpaid wages for work at a Queens-based beverage distributor. A group of Latino warehouse workers and truck drivers brought the class action lawsuit against Beverage Plus and its owners after years of disrespect and systematic violations of state and federal law, violations which the judge found were intentional. The workers are members of Focus on the Food Chain, a coalition promoting good jobs and a sustainable food system in New York City's growing food processing and distribution sector.

"My co-workers and I were deprived of our pay and badly exploited but we finally learned about our rights," said Richard Merino, who drove a delivery truck at Beverage Plus for six years and was a named plaintiff in the case. "We stood up together and now justice has arrived for us and more importantly for our families."

Beverage Plus employees were worked as many as twelve hours a day, deprived of overtime, and subjected to unlawful deductions from their pay.

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Flaum workers win in biggest victory yet with IWW support!

Thu, 24 May 2012 01:55:55 +0000

By Daniel Gross - May 7, 2012

We are overjoyed to announce the biggest victory yet from Focus on the Food Chain!  Workers at Flaum Appetizing, with your unwavering support, have won their campaign with an exemplary global agreement.  Our members have recovered $577,000 in unpaid wages and compensation for retaliation along with a binding code of conduct ensuring Flaum comports with all workplace rights going forward including anti-discrimination and health & safety protections.

You can check out some of the press coverage on today's victory:

New York Times: Kosher-Food Manufacturer to Pay $577,000 in Settlement

Crain's New York: Settlement paves way for end of hummus boycott

Jewish Daily Forward: Uri L'Tzedek Celebrates Flaums Victory

For over a decade, workers at Flaum Appetizing worked grueling sixty to eighty hour work weeks without overtime pay and sometimes not even the minimum wage.  Latino workers were subjected to constant verbal harassment and forced to work at unsafe speeds.  Focus on the Food Chain, a joint project of Brandworkers and the NYC IWW, helped the workers launch a powerful campaign that persuaded over 120 grocery store locations to remove Flaum products from their shelves and convinced the world's largest kosher cheese company to stop using Flaum as a distributor until workers' rights were respected. In the process, Flaum workers won a precedent-setting victory at the Labor Board in D.C. helping workers nationwide fend off unfounded allegations into their immigration status.

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Huge victory in arrest of sweatshop employer!

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 00:50:01 +0000

By Daniel Gross - March 29, 2012

I write with great emotion, gratitude, and hope for the future. Nothing has reached as deep into the soul of the Brandworkers community as the crushing death of Juan Baten in a Brooklyn tortilla factory at the beginning of last year. And nothing has fortified our determination for change as much as the courageous efforts of Juan's widow, Rosario Ramirez, to achieve justice for Juan and their daughter Daisy Stephanie.

Juan lost his life because of his employer's reckless disregard for worker health & safety, a problem of endemic proportions in New York City's food processing factories and distribution warehouses. OSHA, the federal workplace safety agency, concluded that Juan's death would have been prevented had the employer placed a legally required and simple machine guard on the mixer that brutally ended Juan's life. After Juan's death, the factory owner Erasmo Ponce and fellow managers threatened workers if they cooperated with investigators, lied about Juan's death, and even disrespected Rosario at Juan's funeral.

Who would have challenged the employer's false narrative in the media and to government authorities if not for you, the Brandworkers community?

Who would have raised thousands of dollars for Rosario and Daisy if not for you, the Brandworkers community?

Who would have persistently advocated for Erasmo Ponce's arrest to the Office of the Attorney General if not for you, the Brandworkers community?

After this lengthy struggle and with your accompaniment, on Tuesday Rosario finally got some of the solace she so profoundly deserves. Authorities arrested sweatshop owner Erasmo Ponce on 26 felony counts and 23 misdemeanor counts, including falsifying business documents, wage-related violations, and misconduct in connection with the unemployment and workers compensation systems.

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Industrial bakery workers launch new workplace justice campaign!

Sun, 11 Mar 2012 20:11:18 +0000

(image) By Daniel Gross - March 9, 2012

Members of Focus on the Food Chain at one of New York City's largest industrial bakeries launched a campaign on Wednesday to win respect at work in the face of an aggressive attempt by the factory's new private equity owners to degrade their jobs. Drivers at Queens-based Tom Cat Bakery, a leading supplier of artisanal breads to many of the New York metro area's finest restaurants and gourmet food retailers, are forced to work under a highly abusive manager and are being threatened with severe health care cutbacks.

The Tom Cat workers, mostly Latin American immigrants, gathered yesterday in Long Island City with worker and student allies representing a variety of groups including the Occupy Wall Street Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside, the Laundry Workers Center, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, and Domestic Workers United.

Together, workers and supporters marched to the plant where the drivers read and delivered a Declaration of Dignity, outlining workers' expectations of management in the area of respectful treatment, affordable family health care, and equal treatment of all workers. The action was an incredibly inspiring start to the Tom Cat workers' march to justice and represents the latest effort in the growing movement to transform New York City's food processing factories and distribution warehouses.

New York City's food processing and distribution sector supports the livelihoods of 35,000 workers and their families, yet the sector is increasingly characterized by a business model that relies on low quality jobs and mistreatment of a largely immigrant workforce. Focus on the Food Chain is a member-led campaign of workers in the sector organizing to promote good jobs and a sustainable local food system. The Focus campaign is a joint project of Brandworkers and the NYC Industrial Workers of the World labor union.

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Anniversary of a Death in a New York Sweatshop: Justice is Still Lacking in the Case of Juan Baten

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 06:15:12 +0000

By Daniel Gross - Counterpunch, January 24, 2012

A year ago today, Juan Baten, a 22-year-old Guatemalan, was crushed to death while working in a Brooklyn tortilla factory.  Mr. Baten was one of 35,000 workers in a little-known, but indispensable part of New York’s food system: a sprawling industrial sector of food processing factories and distribution warehouses that supply the grocery stores and restaurants where New Yorkers purchase their food.  A year later, justice has still not been done in Mr. Baten’s case and New York’s food supply chain continues to rely on the systematic exploitation of recent immigrant workers, many from Latin America and China.

Mr. Baten started working at Tortilleria Chinantla when he was just sixteen years old. He was working to support his young family – his partner Rosario and their baby daughter Daisy Stephanie – and to send money back home to Guatemala where his father had recently died.  Mr. Baten worked grueling, long shifts through the night for low pay, six days a week. On one such night a year ago, just hours after he called to check on his daughter, Mr. Baten was caught in the mixing machine in which he was brutally killed.

After conducting an investigation of the death, OSHA, the federal workplace safety agency, concluded that had the employer obeyed its legal duty and placed a required guard on the mixing machine, Juan Baten would be alive with his family today. Instead, because of what OSHA called Chinantla’s “disregard for the law’s requirements” or “indifference to worker safety and health,” Daisy Stephanie is growing up without her father and Rosario lives with a deep wound in her heart.

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Workers at Kosher Food Producer Score Legal Victory for Equal Rights: Labor Board Prohibits Employers from Engaging in Discriminatory 'Fishing Expeditions'

Sat, 21 Jan 2012 07:41:32 +0000

Washington, DC- Immigrant workers organizing for justice at a Brooklyn-based producer and distributor of kosher food products have taken a big step forward in their campaign and achieved a legal victory for workers around the country. Using discriminatory allegations about workers' immigration status, Flaum Appetizing has been resisting compliance with a 2009 trial decision that found the company illegally fired employees who came together seeking dignified working conditions. The National Labor Relations Board holding precludes Flaum from continuing to raise baseless immigration status defenses against at least eleven of the workers, and potentially as many as fifteen. By prohibiting employers from engaging in discriminatory 'fishing expeditions' against immigrants or perceived immigrants, the Board clarified important procedural safeguards in cases governed by the landmark anti-immigrant Supreme Court case, Hoffman Plastic.

"Companies that discriminate and undermine labor rights drive down economic standards for every working person, native-born and immigrant alike," said Daniel Gross, the director of non-profit organization Brandworkers, which, along with the Industrial Workers of the World labor union is campaigning for justice at Flaum as part of the Focus on the Food Chain campaign. "Worker organizing helps create the type of quality jobs that support a dynamic economy and healthy communities. The Labor Board's decision is an important step toward ensuring that Flaum and companies like it will not escape accountability through unfounded and discriminatory inquiries into immigration status."

New York grocery stores and restaurants rely on an industrial corridor of food processing factories and distribution warehouses like Flaum that hold down wages and safety standards by exploiting recent immigrant workers. Wage theft, discrimination, and abuse is common in the sector and efforts for change are almost always met with determined and unlawful retaliation. Overcoming these challenges, the Flaum workers are waging a powerful campaign to bring the company into compliance with fundamental workplace protections. The workers have shared their story and persuaded over 120 of NYC's most prominent supermarket locations to discontinue selling Flaum products, including it's Sonny & Joe's hummus, until the company comports with the rule of law. The global kosher cheese giant Tnuva refused to renew its distribution contract with Flaum after spirited worker campaigning and support from Jewish organizations including Uri L'Tzedek, the Orthodox social  justice organization.

"We're glad Flaum didn't get away with avoiding its responsibilities under the law," said Maria Corona, one of the victorious workers and a Focus on the Food Chain member. "There's power in coming together with your co-workers and we are well on our way to winning the justice we have been seeking."

The NLRB's Office of the General Counsel is prosecuting the case against Flaum. The Flaum workers are represented by Eisner & Mirer, a New York labor & employment law firm.

Focus on the Food Chain promotes sustainable jobs and a thriving local food industry in the City of New York. Through organizing, grassroots advocacy, and legal action, the campaign challenges and overcomes unlawful conditions in food processing and distribution warehouses. The Focus campaign is a collaboration of non-profit organization Brandworkers and the NYC Industrial Workers of the World labor union.

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Flaum's Lawyer Accused of Ethical Violation in Bid to Trick Workers Out of Wages!

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 06:33:11 +0000

(image) Dear Focus Friends,

Good morning, I hope you're well. I wanted to update you with breaking news which I hope you'll share.

In a bombshell legal brief filed yesterday, Flaum Appetizing's attorney,  Jeffery Meyer of the firm Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo LLP, has been accused of extremely serious ethical violations in connection with an attempt to trick immigrant workers at Flaum into signing away their right to the wages they worked for.

The prominent blog Failed Messiah, which published the brief in full, calls the revelation, "...a serious ethical violation that could (and probably should) lead to censure and perhaps disbarment." The brief makes for very troubling reading and you can access it in full at http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2011/09/flaum-appetizing-tries-to-cheat-workers-again-678.html.

This development provides further evidence of the ruthless and illegal misconduct used by Flaum and its representatives to undermine the effort  of workers to protect their basic employment rights. In 2009, a judge found that Flaum illegally fired en masse seventeen of its employees for  engaging in protected activity. All appeals are exhausted and the conclusion that Flaum violated federal law cannot be changed. However, Flaum is seeking to avoid compliance with that final decision by raising  discriminatory allegations about immigration status.

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In Global Day of Action, Kosher Consumers Join with Workers to Call on Tnuva to Honor its Distribution Workforce

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 06:23:49 +0000

Rabbis, Workers' Rights Advocates Around the World Take Joint Action Over Abuses at Kosher Cheese Giant's New York Distribution Company

(image) September 22, 2011

Contact: press (at) brandworkers.org

New York, NY -- Workers and kosher consumers around the world participated  in actions Friday to call on Tnuva, the world's largest kosher cheese company, to honor the human rights of its distribution workers. The multinational kosher cheese giant distributes its cheese in New York City though the Flaum Appetizing Corp., a business widely shunned for unlawful labor practices and abuse of immigrant workers from Latin America. While a consensus has largely emerged against Flaum's labor practices, Tnuva continues to do business with Flaum.

"Flaum Appetizing exploited its immigrant workers for years," said Ari Hart, a founder of Uri L'Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization. "Tnuva should use its influence to get Flaum to pay its workers or, if Flaum won't, to choose a company that is yosher (ethical)."

In the New York metropolitan area, Flaum workers and supporters rallied at Tnuva USA's headquarters while Jewish leaders rallied outside a kosher supermarket in Queens calling on CEO Yoram Behiri to ensure respect for the rule of law at Flaum. Phone calls were made to Tnuva from Yeshiva University students and from individuals around the country  participating in the ongoing occupation of Wall Street. Supporters took action outside New York in a wide variety of locations around the United States including Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri and internationally in the British Isles, Canada, Germany, and Poland.

Flaum Appetizing is a highly profitable kosher food processor and distributor in Brooklyn that has engaged in systematic exploitation of immigrant workers from Latin America. The company pushed its employees to work at unsafe speeds, with 60-80 hour work weeks, while denying them  overtime pay. When workers stood up for their rights, Flaum illegally fired seventeen of them in retaliation. A National Labor Relations Board  judge found that Flaum engaged in extensive and unlawful retaliation, but the company has refused for almost three years to comply with the court order to pay its worker $260,000 in back wages.

"For years my coworkers and I worked hard to bring Tnuva products to its  customers," said Felipe Romero, a former Flaum worker who was illegally  fired. "Tnuva should show concern our rights and help us recover our stolen wages."

With Focus on the Food Chain, the Flaum workers are leading a powerful campaign that has resulted in more than 65 of New York's most popular supermarket locations to stop selling Flaum products until Flaum is held  accountable. Tnuva is owned by a sprawling private equity company, Apax Partners, which has financial interests around the world in a diverse array of industries. Another Apax-owned company, the Tommy Hilfiger clothing brand, has also come under fire for using sweatshop labor. The Global Day of Action was organized by Focus on the Food Chain and Uri L'Tzedek.

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Workers Win Large Settlement at Supplier to Chinese Restaurants After Hard Fought Campaign: Energetic Worker-Led Campaign Saw Key Customers Drop the Distribution Warehouse Until Workers' Rights Were Respected

Fri, 19 Aug 2011 08:24:12 +0000

(image) August 18, 2011 - Contact: press (at) brandworkers.org

Queens, NY - Immigrant workers at Pur Pac, a food distribution warehouse supplying many landmark Chinese restaurants, bakeries, and cafes in Chinatown and around the City, have won a major settlement with the company after prevailing in a bitterly contested workplace justice campaign. The comprehensive settlement will return $470,000 in illegally withheld minimum wage and overtime pay and subjects Pur Pac to a binding code of conduct which includes protection for collective activity and compels compliance with all workplace laws including anti-discrimination and health & safety protections. The workers organized with Focus on the Food Chain, a joint campaign from Brandworkers and the IWW which is challenging sweatshop conditions in a sprawling industrial corridor of food processing and distribution warehouses that service New York City markets and restaurants.

"No one who wakes up and goes to work every day should have their wages stolen," said Primo Aguilar, a former worker at Pur Pac and a leading member of the campaign. "I feel proud today that my co-workers and I stood up, got organized, and won. This settlement means a great deal for us and our families but also for our effort with the Focus campaign to win respect for all of New York City's food processing and distribution workers."

Through grassroots advocacy and protest, the workers persuaded key food retail customers of Pur Pac to stop doing business with the company until the dispute was resolved. Pursuant to the settlement, workers' representatives are notifying customers that the dispute has been favorably resolved. Pur Pac's product line includes bulk rice, sugar, cooking oil, chop sticks, and soy sauce. In a previous companion agreement, Pur Pac acknowledged that it was the successor to two predecessor companies, E-Z Supply Corp. and Sunrise Plus Corp., and has recognized the Industrial Workers of the World labor union as the exclusive collective bargaining agent of Pur Pac employees.

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