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Hunts Point Produce Market Workers End Strike With Largest Pay Raise In Decades

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A weeklong strike at Hunts Point Produce Market ended Saturday after workers overwhelmingly approved a deal that includes their largest pay increase in decades and more money for health coverage.

Employees at the Bronx market will receive raises totaling $1.85 per hour over three years, including an increase of 70 cents per hour in the first year, their union said. Management will also make additional contributions of 40 cents per hour to employee healthcare.

About 1,400 members of Teamsters Local 202 walked off the job Jan. 17, upset with how they were being compensated while continuing to keep operations going throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the death of six employees. It was the first strike at the market since 1986.

"Some of us can get a little bit of safe harbor by working from home or telecommuting. These folks can not do that," Local 202 President Danny Kane said in a telephone interview.

MORE: Hunts Point Produce Market Workers On Strike Over Wage Dispute

Workers will start returning to work at the market Sunday, the union said. About 97% of striking employees voted in favor of the deal.

"The message today is how powerful, when unions stick together, you can really stand up to the deep-pocket companies and businesses and, you know, you can get what is fair, and that is a fair wage," said New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr.

A message seeking comment was left with management at the market, a cooperative of more than 30 vendors.

In a previous statement, management said that it was "proud to have kept our union workers — the vast majority of whom live right here in the Bronx — working and on payroll with full health benefits" while many people were unemployed because of the pandemic.

Workers had been seeking a yearly increase of $1 per hour in pay and 60 cents toward health insurance. Management initially offered a pay raise of 32 cents per hour, plus 60 cents towards health insurance coverage.

Striking workers — picketing around bonfires and holding signs saying "Stop the War on Workers" — garnered support from community leaders and elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said the workers were seeking "transformational change" in their lives and the lives of "every food worker across this country."

"The help from the community groups and the politicians and other people put us in good footing to get to the bargaining table and bargain a fair and open deal," Kane said.

The Hunts Point Produce Market distributes about 300,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables per day to restaurants, wholesalers and grocery stores in the region and accounts for about 60% of produce sales in New York City.

The market remained open during the strike, with management bringing in temporary workers and using police and private security to safeguard delivery trucks. Several strikers were arrested for blocking the road while picketing.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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