The largely immigrant workforce at the Hot and Crusty bakery on 63rd and 2nd avenue in Manhattan, sick of working for abusive bosses, and for less than the minimum wage, voted to form an independent association and register with the National Labour Relations Board.
The owners of Hot and Crusty decided to sack all the workers and close the bakery, rather than allow workers to participate in any kind of union activity. They then planned to wait for a short period of time and then re-open the bakery with a new set of non-unionised workers.
The Hot and Crusty chain has many branches throughout New York and is owned by Praesidian Capital, a company with over $700 million worth of assets.
A spokesman for the workers alleges that the owners:
“Have a demonstrated history of wage and hour violations, intimidation, retaliation and harassment of workers in several of their businesses, as well as a pattern of closing down shops and opening under aliases to avoid legal and economic liability.”
Following the closure of the baker, fifteen workers organised an occupation and a picket of the storefront, to highlight the business practices of the owners.
Not long after the occupation and picket started, the police arrived en-masse, removed the occupiers, and arrested several people. A small picket remains outside.
One of the protesters said that:
“I want to send a message that we have to change the way immigrants are treated in this country. We have to show the bosses that we can’t be treated like animals any longer. We need to take radical action like people did in the civil rights movement, so that our voices can be heard. We are so happy to have the community here with us.”
The union, led by the grassroots Labour organisation, the ‘Laundry workers Centre’ claims that the bosses:
“Used several bait-and-switch tactics during negotiations, threatening workers immigration status to deter their commitment to continuing the fight.”
One of the leaders of the campaign, Mahoma Lopez said:
“I want to send a message that we have to change the way immigrants are treated in this country. We have to show the bosses that we can’t be treated like animals any longer. We need to take radical action like people did in the civil rights movement, so that our voices can be heard. We are happy to have the community here with us.”
Regular picketing is on-going outside the bakery.
The group have a facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/WorkersOfHotAndCrusty