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Photo: Alex Moore/Teamsters Joint Council 16
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez skipped out on President Joe Biden's inauguration to show support for Hunts Point strikers. Photo: Alex Moore/Teamsters Joint Council 16

The Hunts Point produce strike success will be remembered long after 2021

New York’s Teamsters Local 202 came to an agreement on a new contract Sunday, Jan. 24 in a big win for organized labor.

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For the first time in 35 years, workers at New York City’s Hunts Point Market went on strike. 

On Sunday Jan. 17, upon finding out that their appeals for a $1 hourly raise were countered by management, 1,400 produce workers of the Teamsters Local 202 union, unanimously voted to strike. 

These workers, who have been working throughout the pandemic, are responsible for supplying more than half of the produce in New York City. 

Most of the workers at Hunts Point market have an average base salary between $18 and $21 an hour, but some earn as little as $15 an hour. Meanwhile, as pointed out in a statement by Teamsters Local 202, “employers in the market received more than $15 million in forgivable PPP loans during the pandemic.” 

The strike drew up to 500 supporters to the picket line’s night shifts. 

Early Tuesday morning, Jan. 19, more than 300 police officers in riot gear charged the picket line, arresting five people for allegedly blocking traffic. 

In a tweet, the Teamsters condemned the arrests and then returned to their original message: “these essential workers deserve their $1 raise.” 

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped amplify the cause by skipping out on last week’s Inaugural festivities to join union workers in their fight. Senator Bernie Sanders also vocalized his support for the strike on Twitter. 

“Essential workers should not have to go on strike for decent pay,” he wrote. 

While speaking to reporters on Thursday, Jan. 21, many Teamsters expressed gratitude to the politicians who spoke up about their efforts, but the main focus of their thanks and praise was directed towards other unionized workers, such as nurses, teachers and sanitation workers, who joined the picket line and brought supplies and funds.

“The message this solidarity shows to workers in the city, in the whole country, is very powerful,” said Danny Kane, president of Local 202 since 1999. 

Congresswoman AOC, who is a Bronx native headed to Costco early in the day on Wednesday Jan. 20, to pick up hot chocolate and Bustelo coffee to keep union members warm. 

“Our entire city needs to stand by our essential workers. And it’s not enough for us to just say it. We have to say thank you to all of our essential workers from our nurses to our food workers to the folks loading the trucks. But it’s not just enough to say thank you. We have to support them in their demands for a better life,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

After almost a full week on the picket line, the Teamsters announced that their demands were heard, and a provisional agreement had been reached. 

On Sunday morning, Jan. 24, the strikers voted to approve their new contract, which consists of a $1.85 wage increase over three years, and an end to any out of pocket payments for family healthcare plans. 

While they weren’t granted the full $1 raise they demanded and deserve, it’s clear that the conditions of the contract were improved by the efforts of the strike. 

Some supporters raised concerns about whether union leaders settled too quickly or too early, but the general mood was one of celebration and relief. 

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