1,400 union workers at Bronx supermarket strike over hourly wages

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Thursday, January 21, 2021
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Marcus Solis has more on a union strike demanding higher hourly wages from a Bronx supermarket.

HUNTS POINT, Bronx (WABC) -- Union workers at a Bronx supermarket, that processes more than half of the city's fruits and vegetables, have gone on strike.

"For them to say 32 cents is all we're going to offer, it's a slap in the face," striking worker Darren Brenner said.

Brenner is one of 1,400 workers on the picket line.

The Teamsters Union members walked off the job five days ago at the Hunts Point Produce Market claiming they are underpaid and underappreciated given their work during the pandemic.

Got sick, got my whole family sick during this pandemic, I got it here, thank god we recovered and all is well, but there are people who are not here anymore because they died during this pandemic -- here," Brenner said.

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Sixty percent of the city's fruits and vegetables are processed at the market.

It's hard, physical labor usually done during the overnight hour, which is when picket lines have been busiest with visitors like representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez lending support.

There have been arrests as well. Six strikers summonsed for blocking trucks from entering the market and other vehicles have turned around in solidarity.

"We're part of that food chain and we'd like to continue to be part of that food chain, we just think we should be recognized," Teamsters Local 202 President Daniel Kane Jr. said.

The market remains open and is being staffed by management and non-union workers.

The cooperative of vendors that runs the facility says there's been no shortage of produce in stores.

The sticking point remains money. Owners have offered a 32-cent an hour raise, but the union is asking for a dollar an hour increase or roughly 5%.

"I'm not going to become a millionaire, I don't want to go to Bahamas on vacation or Jersey Shore on vacation," striking worker Andre Salega said.

There have been tough contract negotiations in the past, but this is the first time workers at the market have gone on strike in 35 years.

Both sides continue to talk.

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