Gothamist - January 23, 2021
The union representing 1,400 workers at the Hunts Point Produce Market popped open champagne bottles as they celebrated the end of a weeklong strike for increased pay in their next three-year contract.
The warehouse workers and drivers that collectively make up Teamsters Local 202 hailed the ratification of the contract on Saturday at the picket line outside the massive distribution hub after the vote was taken at 10 a.m. at a so-called neutral zone within the distribution hub's outside property. The contract was approved by 97% of the union’s members.
Shortly after the ratification, members took a victory lap outside the strike area they picketed for nearly a week, while cars passing by honked their horns, and chants of "si se puede" ("yes we can") were uttered. As members raised a glass in celebration, another member was seen holding up a toy replica of Mjolnir, the mythical hammer used by Marvel Comics' Thor.
The ratification of the contract ends a six-day long strike that began on January 17th after the union's negotiating team could not come to a consensus with the Hunts Point Cooperative Board. Union members had asked for a $1 increase to their hourly pay and a .60 cents more pay to cover their health insurance, emphasizing that workers kept working throughout the pandemic. The company counter-offered with a 32-cent hourly wage increase and 60-cent hourly increase towards their health insurance coverage. The strike raised concerns over how disruptive it will be to the city's food supply, where 60% of its fruits and vegetables come from the massive market.
"Thirty-two cents when people are risking their lives in a pandemic was not good enough," Charles Machadio, a union trustee. And they just didn't understand it. You were giving us less in this contract than we were getting in the last contract."
The two sides had returned to the table at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to Daniel Kane Jr., the Teamsters Local 202 president.
Under the terms, workers will be paid a minimum of 70 cents an hour more the first year, 50 cents more the second year, and 65 cents more the third year. They will also receive a one-time $1300 bonus in 2023. Workers will also receive the same health insurance coverage without having to pay an increase. Workers will head back to work beginning Sunday, when the contract takes effect. The contract is not expected to be retroactive.
Read full report at Gothamist