September 29, 2009

Unions stand strong in support of Stella D'oro workers

Author: Bernie Mulligan
Source: NYSUT News Wire

The old labor adage "united we stand" has guided the work of hundreds of NYSUT members supporting workers in the Bronx the past year.

Activists from NYSUT, the Professional Staff Congress and the United Federation of Teachers have been front and center defending the 136 valiant Stella D'oro factory workers, who fought an 11-month strike to return to their jobs. Just days after the National Labor Relations Board ordered the company to return the workers to the plant, their employer announced the brand was being sold to a new anti-union corporation and the production moved to Ohio.

The current owners, Brynwood Partners, a private equity firm, reached a deal to sell the Stella D'oro operation, which had been produced in the Bronx for 78 years, to Lance, a North Carolina firm. The unionized bakery plant has been a fixture in the community for decades and the source of stable family-supporting jobs in the Kingsbridge neighborhood. Unions believe that profitable companies like Stella D'oro and Lance have an obligation to treat fairly the communities that made them successful and profitable. The workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers union.

This fight to keep keep production in the Bronx and to recognize the contract rights of the plant workers has attracted national attention, in many ways due to NYSUT's consistently strong voice advocating for these workers and the need to keep good jobs in our state.

If you would like to participate in the effort to keep these jobs in New York, go to www.unionvoice.org/campaign/stelladoro .

The NYSUT Board of Directors recently passed a resolution of support for the workers in their fight to keep their jobs and production in New York.

The statewide union's embrace of this issue has been matched by the generosity and solidarity of individual union members.

PSC members Lenny Dick, a professor at Bronx Community College, and Tony O'Brien, recently retired from Queens College, marched on the picket lines with the workers several days a week during the strike, through rain, snow and sun. Lizette Colon, chair of the PSC chapter at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, hosted a Christmas party for the children of the striking workers. Nikke McDaniel, chair of the Bronx CC chapter, kept the strike a topic of discussion on the working-class campus. The PSC proudly estimates 300 of its members have been involved in some level of support activities.

Sheila Goldberg, a NYSUT political action coordinator and retired teacher from Long Island, raised more than $2,000 to support the workers during the strike. The long-time activist reminded educators about the 1978 Levittown strike and how many locals collected $5 a week per member to help those teachers. "We have to stand up and speak out against this kind of union-busting," Goldberg said.