Dozens of NYSUT activists attended a massive rally in the Bronx for striking Stella Doro workers in late May.
Teachers, university professors, health care professionals and retired activists rallied and marched through the crowded streets of the Kingsbridge neighborhood. They stopped at a Target store that stills sells the scab cookies - made by non-union replacement workers and managers - for some choice words.
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NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler told the crowd, "Your fight is our fight. We understand your struggle. New York's working people need decent jobs with good wages."
Carla McLaud, from the NYSUT Board of Directors and the Pine Bush TA, said, "The company will try to split you but we are here to give you the support of thousands of union members."
Sheila Goldberg, a retiree activist from Long Island, told the workers that thousands of educators understand the hardships caused by striking but fully support them in their struggle. She presented checks for more than $2,000 that she had collected at NYSUT meetings for the workers' strike fund. (See the June 18 issue of New York Teacher for more on her efforts.)
The Professional Staff Congress, NYSUT's affiliate in the City University of New York colleges, has been a leader in supporting the strikers and bringing public attention to their struggle. Leonard Dick, a PSC leader from Bronx Community College, led the rally and introduced speakers.
Barbara Bowen, the PSC president, urged the crowd to pressure Brynwood Partners, a wealthy private investment firm specializing in corporate takeovers that bought Stella Doro in 2008. Their sweeping demands to dismantle the workers' hard-fought contract rights and benefits prompted the strike in August, 2008. "They are not venture capitalists, " she said. "They are vulture capitalists."
Members from the United Federation of Teachers and the United University Professions at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn also made their voices heard at the rally.
The crowd then dispersed into the crowded residential neighborhood to distribute flyers, talk to shoppers about the boycott and wave at the passing cars honking their horns in support.
The march ended at the locked factory gate, a dividing line between the striking workers and a company which refuses to deal with them fairly.
Nadia Resnikoff from the Middle Country Teachers Association and Paul Pecorale from the Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers, both members of the NYSUT Board of Directors, stood just outside the gate and spoke about why they were there.
"We're working people, too," said Resnikoff. "If it happens to them, it could happen to us."
Pecorale nodded in agreement, "Anytime union workers are replaced by non-union workers, we've got to take a stand."
That strong sense of solidarity pervaded the day. Joe McLaughlin and Jeff Yonkers from NYSUT's Board of Directors led a Hudson Valley contingent that included regional staff and members from locals in Tarrytown, Ossining, Yonkers, Mt. Vernon, Nanuet, Southern Westchester BOCES, Scarsdale, Ramapo and Westchester Community College, as well as ED 15/16 Retiree Council.
Dozens of other union members from Long island also made the trip to the Bronx to show their support. Locals from Smithtown, Northport, Harborfields, Riverhead, Middle Country, Patchogue-Medford, Bethpage, Bellmore-Merrick, Port Jefferson Station and LI Retirees attended, as did staff from the Nassau and Suffolk offices.