Following Arrests, AOC Rallies 1,400 Striking Grocery Workers As Railroaders Refuse to Deliver Produce in Solidarity

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez works the bullhorn on the Hunts Points Market Strike in the Bronx last night (Claudia Irizarry Aponte/ The City)

Last week, Payday Report previewed the story of 1,400 grocery workers potentially striking at Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx. 

On Saturday workers followed through with the strike after their employer denied them a $1-an-hour raise despite being deemed essential workers during the pandemic. 

More than 60% of New York’s produce comes through Hunts Point Produce Market, the largest wholesale market in the world. According to their union, Teamsters Local 202, six of their workers also died from COVID-19. 

“These are the essential workers who went to work every day through the worst of the pandemic to feed New York,” Daniel Kane, president of Teamsters Local 202 said in a statement. “All they are asking for is a dollar-an-hour raise so they can feed their families.”

Days into the strike on Tuesday, more than 300 police officers stormed the picket line that was blocking produce truckers from entering the plant. Officers arrested five strikers for blocking produce trucks from entering the main terminal of the company. 

Then last night, a Payday reader tipped us off to a video of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rallying a crowd of picketers while handing out cups of Bustelo coffee and hot chocolate where workers were picketing at 772 Edgewater Road, Bronx, NY. 

Ocasio-Cortez applauds the workers for their courage and tells the community in her district in the Bronx to “pull up” to support workers. 

“For anybody, who might be watching or hearing, who isn’t part of the union, who is just in the neighborhood, pull up. Pull up,” Ocasio-Cortez shouted to a crowd of dozens of strikers clapping and cheering. 

Ocasio Cortez urged folks who might be watching to swing by the picket line and bring down hot chocolate as she did for the workers. 

“We are gonna bring more and more and more, and the more we talk about this, the more everybody can put on the pressure so that we not just get a buck, but we change lives for people across this country, “ she said to thunderous applause from striking workers. “Thank you for doing that work, thank you for doing that work” 

We amplified the video on our Twitter feed and quickly went viral with Ocasio-Cortez tweeting it out to her over 11 Million Twitter followers. 

The strike is one of more than 1,200 strikes that Payday Report has tracked since March 1, 2020. 

In an atmosphere where workers have increasingly turned to striking, the Hunts Points Produce Market was able to quickly find massive community support. 

On Wednesday night, a 21-car-long train carrying produce showed up at the market, but when the locomotive engineer for CSX, a member of the Teamsters from Ohio, heard that the workers were on strike, he refused to deliver his produce. 

“The locomotive engineer said, ‘We’re Teamsters too,’ turned the freight car around, and headed back to Ohio,” said a worker on a video released from Teamsters Joint Council 16. 

Under many Teamsters union contracts, union members are allowed to refuse to deliver cargo across the picket line, increasing the likelihood that sympathetic truck drivers and railroad drivers could put pressure on the company by refusing to deliver products. 

In the video, one of the striking Hunts Point workers is seen marching back to a growing crowd of his co-workers.

 “Another victory, another day longer, another day stronger,” he says. 

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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