Brandworkers will scrutinize loan decisions to ensure that public dollars create good jobs rather than benefit lawless employers
New York, NY- Brandworkers pledged today to scrutinize the loan decisions of a new City loan program for food manufacturers backed by controversial Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs. The Queens-based workers' rights organization made the move after talks with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), Goldman, and their third-party loan administrator broke down over incorporating basic standards of transparency, disclosure, and legal compliance for employers who receive public dollars from the NYC Food Manufacturers Growth Fund. While the City's food manufacturing businesses represents an important opportunity for economic growth, the mostly immigrant workers in the sector are faced with widespread minimum wage and overtime violations, unsafe working conditions, and many other labor abuses.
“Working New Yorkers are increasingly stuck in a low-wage economy and further cuts to basic services like education and health are coming down the pipe,” said Daniel Gross, an attorney and the executive director of Brandworkers. “The City's decision to make subsidized loans in secret using taxpayer money is highly irresponsible in these challenging fiscal and economic times. We'll be looking into each recipient of public dollars from this program to make sure decent jobs are being created and that taxpayer money is not being squandered.”
35,000 workers are employed in NYC's food processing factories and distribution warehouses baking bread, processing seafood, producing ethnic foods, distributing beverages and much more. Workers in the industry are routinely subjected to large-scale wage theft, depriving families of hard-earned wealth and disadvantaging law-abiding employers. Bad actor employers also cut costs by disregarding health and safety protections, and as a result, over 4 in 10 workers in the sector have been injured on the job. In 2011, a 22 year-old immigrant worker named Juan Baten was crushed to death in a Brooklyn tortilla factory because his employer failed to install a legally required machine guard.
“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, and Juan Baten will have died in vain.”
Founded in 2007, Brandworkers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food employees. Brandworkers members in food processing and distribution are winning good wages and safe workplaces through organizing, grassroots advocacy, and legal action.