THE BRONX — Hundreds of workers at the Hunts Point Market are on strike after failing to reach an agreement with ownership.
New York City residents could soon feel the impact with a shortage of produce at local supermarkets. The Hunts Point Market provides more than 60% of the produce for New York City.
Most of that produce is loaded onto trucks by members of the Teamsters Local 202, such as Edward Gill.
“We’ve gone through a lot to take care of our community to make sure that we have food on the table for them,” Gill said. “We’re only asking for the same thing in return.”
Last weekend, union members went on strike for the first time in more than 35 years when they failed to reach an agreement on a new contract with ownership. Monday night, tensions boiled over, as several members were arrested after temporarily blocking trucks from entering the market.
Right now, union members earn a base salary between $40,000 and $45,000 per year without overtime.
Workers are asking for a raise of $1 and increased health care coverage to meet the rising costs.
“They deserve $4 an hour,” said Teamsters 202 Represenative Charles Machadio.
Ownership has offered a raise of 32 cents an hour, but union leaders say that’s a non-starter coming off a year where workers risked their lives working through the pandemic. More than 200 members contracted the virus, at least six of them died as a result.
“They have been out here, and they struggled during that pandemic and they should be treated with better than a 32-cent raise, that’s for sure,” said Teamsters Local 202 President Daniel Kane Jr.
Wednesday night, elected officials — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — joined the picket line.
“People started using this term ‘essential worker’ this past year, but you have always been essential workers,” Ocsaio-Cortez said.
AOC and the other politicians are urging owners of the market, which brings in more than $2 billion a year, to treat the workers with respect by giving them a decent wage.
“This whole city is behind you. There’s no working person in New York City that I can hear of or even think of, that would think that what you’re doing is wrong. Everybody’s behind you,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
PIX11 News reached out to the Hunts Point Market owners, but they did not immediately respond for comment.
Kane Jr. said he’s ready to negotiate when the owners are ready to make a reasonable offer. While the union members say they’d rather be doing their job, they’ll stand outside for as long as it takes; working on the refrigerated trucks prepared them to deal with the cold.