NEW YORK, N.Y.—Six striking workers at the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx were arrested for blocking traffic shortly after midnight Jan. 19.
Video posted online by Teamsters Joint Council 16 showed several dozen police officers, some wearing riot helmets, trotting towards a group of about 25 picketers standing in front of three trucks on one side of the concrete median on Food Center Drive. “You are ordered to leave the roadway and use the available sidewalk. If you do so voluntarily, no charges will be placed against you,” a police recording blared.
Most of the picketers walked toward the sidewalk, but a few stayed in front of the trucks, holding their hands up.
Police said the six arrested were issued summonses for disorderly conduct: obstructing the roadway and were released.
“It is outrageous that after being called essential heroes for months, several of our members were arrested while peacefully protesting for a raise today,” Teamsters Local 202 President Daniel Kane, Jr., said in a statement. “These are the essential workers who went to work every day through the worst of the pandemic to feed New York. All they are asking for is a dollar-an-hour raise so they can feed their families too. The fact that they were arrested on Martin Luther King Day reminds us what side of history we are on.”
The about 1,400 warehouse workers, drivers, and other workers Local 202 represents at the giant produce market went on strike Jan. 16. Kane told LaborPress that they were seeking a $1-an-hour pay increase and 60 cents an hour more in health benefits. Hunts Point Produce Trade Associates, which represents the about 30 companies at the market, offered only 32 cents in pay and 50 cents in health benefits.
There is “nothing going on right now” with further contract talks, he added.
Employers received $15 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government, according to the Teamsters.
“Tensions are a little high. These are people’s livelihoods,” Kane said. “These are essential workers making sure the food supply is open for the city.”
One picketer carried a sign that read “Essential Until It’s Time to Pay.”
A Teamsters spokesperson said trucks were moving into the market, but slowly.
“They can use riot cops to get trucks into the market, but the workers they need to unload the trucks are still on the picket line,” Kane said in his statement.
Local 202 members are proud of their work in the metropolitan area’s food chain, he told LaborPress. “We don’t take these drastic actions lightly, but it’s part of providing for our families.”
Solidarity is good, he added. Teamsters members from Boston and Philadelphia showed up to support the picketers.
Later in the morning, an inflatable Scabby the Rat effigy leaned on a sky-blue truck from Local 107 in Philadelphia, a sign on its stomach reading “No Justice, No Peas.”