Photo courtesy of Twitter/Brandworkers
Employees at Tom Cat Bakery in Long Island City face termination after a Department of Homeland Security audit.

Tom Cat Bakery workers who have been thrust to the center of discussions regarding recent immigration policies are holding a daylong walk out on Friday to protest an impending mass firing of more than a dozen workers after a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) audit last month.

Employees, along with nonprofit Brandworkers, organized a “Day Without Bread” in Long Island City to “protest the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies,” according to a statement.

Early on Friday morning, employees and supporters gathered outside Tom Cat Bakery at 43-05 10th St. Four supporters chained themselves to delivery trucks overnight to kick off the event, according to Brandworkers. They were arrested early Friday morning.

After a DHS audit in March, Tom Cat Bakery told 31 workers they had 10 days to produce valid I-9 forms or would face termination with no severance pay. Employees held a rally in front of the building and worked with their union to hammer out an extension, which expires on April 21.

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 who cannot meet DHS’ demands after the 6 months 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 first reported.

“The Trump administration may want us to quietly disappear, but we’re not going away silently,” said Henry Rivera, a Tom Cat Bakery worker in a statement. “We’re on strike today to send a message that we help make America great and we cannot just be thrown away like day-old bread.”

On April 20, 12-year employee Oscar Ramirez was fired for leading the rallies with his coworkers and employees are asking that Tom Cat Bakery “take responsibility for its illegal actions.”

Restaurants around the city are also participating in the “Day Without Bread” by refusing to sell bread today or donating proceeds to a relief fund for the workers.

Yemeni bodega workers, who led a walk-out of their own in February after the Trump Administration instituted a travel ban from several Muslim countries including Yemen, are also participating in the event today.

“Tom Cat Bakery workers are bravely defying the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration clampdown, and they have the full support of Yemeni bodega owners and workers across New York,” said Rabyaah Althaibani, a Yemeni-American community activist from Brooklyn and an of the Yemeni Bodega strike. “Their fight against America’s broken immigration system is our fight too. Immigrants are the backbone of New York’s economy, and by standing together and speaking out, we’ve proven we can resist efforts to tear apart our lives and communities.”

Tom Cat Bakery is the city’s oldest artisanal bakery. It provides bread to Citarella, Darden Restaurants,  the Grand Hyatt and more. It is owned by one of one of the world’s largest multi-national baking companies, Yamazaki Baking.

It is not clear if the remaining Tom Cat Bakery workers will be able to provide valid I-9 forms before the 6 month deadline.


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