Brandworkers in the News
Food supply chain workers adopt the IWW’s radical actions to fight abusive employers.
Once upon a time in the labor movement, a rebellious vanguard emerged at the margins of American industry, braiding together workers on society’s fringes—immigrants, African Americans, women, unskilled laborers—under a broad banner of class struggle.
A lot of the heavy lifting in today’s labor movement is coming from an unexpected place: the warehouses and processing facilities that bridge the retail and wholesale markets.
New York, NY- 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.
After enduring a withering worker-led campaign, Flaum Appetizing, a prominent producer and distributor of hummus and other kosher food products, has accepted a global settlement which will return $577,000 in unpaid wages and other compensation to workers and subject the Brooklyn-based factory to a binding code of conduct protecting workplace rights. The victory comes after the workers' group, Focus on the Food Chain, in partnership with Orthodox social justice organization, Uri L'Tzedek, persuaded over 120 grocery store locations in New York City to stop selling Flaum products, including its Sonny & Joe's hummus, until workers' rights were respected.
The owner of a Brooklyn tortilla factory where a worker was crushed to death has been charged with filing false tax documents and not paying employees overtime. Erasmo Ponce, who is also accused of not paying for worker’s compensation insurance, was arrested Tuesday and released without bail. He could not be reached for comment on the charges brought by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Focus on the Food Chain is very gratified that tortilla factory owner Erasmo Ponce has been brought to justice in a case stemming from the workplace death of Juan Baten. While nothing will bring Juan Baten back to his widow and daughter, this arrest is an important step forward toward accountability in New York City's food processing industry, where reckless disregard for worker health & safety is increasingly the norm. Juan Baten started working at the Chinantla tortilla factory at age sixteen, working as much as twelve hours a day, six days a week. OSHA, the federal workplace safety agency, concluded that Mr. Baten would not have been crushed to death in a mixing machine had the employer installed a simple and legally required machine guard.
“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."
Tnuva, the world's largest kosher diary company, will discontinue its relationship with New York food processor and distributor, Flaum Appetizing, after a global campaign led by immigrant workers and their supporters in the Jewish community. Tnuva joins several other food industry leaders who have cut ties with Flaum after a court ruling which found that the company illegally fired seventeen of its Latino employees for demanding to be paid in accordance with state and federal law. Flaum and its owner Moishe Grunhut continue to resist complying with the court order even as they face an additional trial over hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid minimum wage and overtime.