Long Island City bakery workers threatened after immigration audit to hold ‘Day Without Bread’

Photo courtesy of Facebook/Brandworkers

Employees at a Long Island City bakery who were threatened to be fired by management after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducted a raid in March are calling for the city residents to go a “Day Without Bread” on Friday.

Tom Cat Bakery, located at 43-05 10th St., sent a letter to 30 of its employees on March 15 to tell them that their I-9 forms were out of date. This occurred after DHS conducted an audit and employees were told that they would be fired in 10 days with no severance pay.

One week later, the employees held a rally to bring attention to the incident and partnered with local elected officials and the nonprofit Brandworkers to demand that their employees work with them to help keep their jobs. On March 29, the company announced that DHS granted an extension for workers to show updated I-9 forms. They now have until April 21 to show proper documentation.

According to the Daily News, The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), were able to work out a deal between Tom Cat Bakery and its employees. Previously, the company told employees that they would be fired with no severance pay.

But now, those who cannot produce updated I-9 forms will get up to 6 months of unpaid leave and will be able to return to work after they rectify the situation.

Those we cannot meet DHS’ demands will be fired with a full severance package including a week’s pay for every year of service, 90 days of healthcare coverage and a chance to cash out all remaining vacation, holiday and sick days.

Immigration attorneys were able to help 11 employees produce valid papers and one worker has said he will go on leave and try to obtain a valid I-9 form. But the remaining employees said they would not take the offer and try to fight for better wages, the Daily News reported.

“We’re taking a stand not just for own families, but for millions of immigrants across New York and the country who are striving for a better life – the same one that we fought so hard to achieve,” said Henry Rivera, a worker at Tom Cat Bakery in a statement. “By speaking out, we are hoping to inspire people across the city to take a stand for a more fair and humane immigration policy.”

In light of this deadline, the employees and Brandworkers are asking people to refrain from selling or eating bread this Friday. Several establishments have pledged to participate or donate money to the relief fund for the workers. Harvest & Ravel Catering in Brooklyn will donate a portion of its sandwiches on Friday to the fund.

Samesa, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Brooklyn, will donate 50 cents of every dollar in sales of bread items and COLORS restaurant, which serves gluten free food in Manhattan, will not sell bread on Friday.

“New York City is a world-famous food destination because of immigrant workers like the bakers at Tom Cat, and businesses like mine won’t stand for Trump’s threats to tear apart the fabric of our community,” said Sara Elise, owner of Brooklyn-based catering company Harvest & Revel. “We are proud to support the Day Without Bread because this city’s food industry needs fair immigration policy, and all New Yorkers deserve respect no matter their country of origin.”

Brandworkers is also circulating a petition to encourage others to participate in a “Day Without Bread.” Previously, workers held a rally in front of Trump Tower to ask that he stop his investigation into the bakery, where some employees have worked for more than a decade.

“Our fight will not stop when we walk out of Tom Cat for the last time on April 21,” said Elias Rojas, a worker at Tom Cat Bakery. “We are joining thousands of other immigrant workers across the country in a General Strike on May 1 to intensify our fight against America’s cruel immigration system. We’re not backing down.”