Fighting for a fair contract and against unfair labor practices, workers in the meat department, who are members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 342, picketed in front of all nine Trade Fair supermarkets on Wednesday, March 13.
The strike began at 7 a.m. and workers were met with angry reactions from the store managers. According to the union, workers also faced verbal altercations and few assaults during their strike, with cops called several times.
The strike comes a day after four workers from a Trade Fair Supermarket located on 75-07 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights joined Kate Meckler, communications director of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 342 at Councilmember Daniel Dromm’s office to continue to raise awareness of their struggles.
The four union workers, along with 100 other union members who work in the meat department at the nine Trade Fair Supermarket locations have been distributing leaflets and collected hundreds of signatures from residents in the community as the contract negotiations with the company have gone sour since the previous contract expired in October.
According to Meckler, Trade Fair is proposing to cut the workers’ hours, destroy their health benefits, freeze wages and take away their Sunday premium pay.
“Why are they taking this away from us?” said Miguel Urena, who has worked for the company for six years. “It is not fair that they take us to part-time.”
Turning all their full-time meat department workers into part-time workers would ultimately lead the workers to looking for a second job to support their families, said Meckler.
“Nobody responds for our lives,” said Maria Aguirre, a worker at Trade Fair for 10 years.
Along with the refusal to meet contract negotiations, the company owner is also being accused of treating workers with disrespect and putting their live in danger with exits being blocked most of the time. According to the union, workers are also intimidated by “Help Wanted” ads and posters found throughout the store.
“The company’s owner and management have created an atmosphere that is driven by intimidation and fear,” said Meckler. “The workers will not stand for the abuse any longer.”
Meckler also said the union has a video on YouTube showing management the treating workers horribly and getting angry after finding out they had been leafleting while off the clock and during their lunch breaks.
Trade Fair Supermarket did not immediately comment.