The NYC Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with Goldman Sachs and the New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC), has just announced the launch of their Food Manufacturers Fund. This program will bestow taxpayer-funded loans on food manufacturers in an effort to stimulate the sector. To ensure that bad actor employers do not receive city funds under this new initiative, Brandworkers has called on the EDC to require loan applicants to sign and adhere to a code of conduct as a condition of receiving a loan, and to adopt a transparent process by publicly disclosing potential loan recipients so that bad actors can be vetted before the loans are finalized. The EDC and NYBDC have agreed to adopt our mandatory code of conduct; however, they have declined thus far to adopt a transparent process of disclosing loan applicants.
“The people of New York City want the good jobs our communities need, and a transparent process for spending taxpayer dollars. While the City did the right thing by accepting our workers' rights code of conduct for loan recipients, knowing which businesses apply for public funds is a must,” said Daniel Gross, the Executive Director of Brandworkers. “Without the basic standards of transparency necessary for democracy to function, highly abusive employers could benefit from taxpayer money. Last night we commemorated the second anniversary of the crushing death of Juan Baten at a Brooklyn tortilla factory. We urge the Mayor and Economic Development Corporation to adopt a transparent process for loan applicants that will help ensure that a tragedy like Juan's never occurs again.”
With some $5 billion in gross annual sales, New York City's food manufacturing industry supports the livelihoods of nearly 15,000 workers and their families—an additional 10,000 workers are employed in the City's food distribution warehouses. Juan Baten is just one example of thousands of workers, mostly recent immigrants from Latin America and China, who work in New York City’s food manufacturing factories, who endure dangerous working conditions and chronic violations of their rights by employers. A forthcoming report by Brandworkers and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center will reveal that food manufacturing/processing workers face long hours in dangerous conditions, but receive limited training and benefits.
“The city should only reward business owners who follow the law by providing safe work environments, and who offer an honest day's pay for an honest day's work,” said Luis Pauta, an 18-year industrial baker and a member of Brandworkers. “Otherwise, the city is giving incentives to employers who break the law."
To protect workers from wage theft, unsafe working conditions, and other rights violations, Brandworkers and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center are pushing for food manufacturers to adopt labor safety standards. This effort is part of Brandworkers' and the NYC Industrial Workers of the World's Focus on the Food Chain organizing drive to win good jobs and a responsible food system with the workers employed in the food factories and distribution warehouses that supply the city’s grocery stores and restaurants.