|My Dad on the ladder|
of his gantry crane. Lukens
|My Grandma Cavallucci holding me at|
my 1st. birthday party. Isabella Cavallucci
was choir director and organist at the
Holy Rosary Church about 100 feet down
Black Horse Hill Road from our house.
As the first images of President Joe Biden’s Oval Office began to circulate online, a prominently placed bust of labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez drew swift comment. Nestled amid Biden family photos behind the president’s desk, the bronze statuette appeared to signal a commitment to the Latinx and worker struggles for which Chavez, founder of the union that would later become the United Farm Workers of America, fought...
Following decades of anti-worker, anti-union labor laws established in this country, the Hunts Point strike comes at a time of robust and potent labor organizing. Last February, the House passed an omnibus labor reform bill, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would overturn a number of anti-worker Supreme Court decisions.
The strike at the market, aimed at a key chokepoint of commodity circulation, underlines the necessity of collective action, the solidarity it requires, and the critical role of strong unions. This sort of high-stakes, hard-fought labor action — which entails significant sacrifices from workers — is the least that powerful business owners should face when workers are deemed “essential” but treated as disposable.
“We’re only essential when it suits them,” said Darren Brenner, a 52-year-old warehouse worker who has been a Teamsters member at the market for 31 years. “There were guys who died. I got the virus and brought it home to my family,” he told me on Thursday afternoon, standing at the barricaded entrance to the distribution center with a few dozen co-workers, maintaining the picket line through the quieter day shift. Brenner said that while he and his family fully recovered from Covid-19, numerous other co-workers “never came back” from the disease.
According to a Local 202 spokesperson, hundreds of workers were infected with Covid-19, and six died. “Our jobs are always dangerous. For them to offer us 32 cents — to think that’s what we’re worth to them. It’s an insult.”
The Bronx’s own Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped draw broader attention to Hunts Point, eschewing Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day to join the picket line. And Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., while iterating as a thousand mitten-clad memes across social media on Wednesday, tweeted his support for the strike. “Essential workers should not have to go on strike for decent pay,” he wrote.
Essential workers, ravaged by the pandemic as their bosses raked in millions, organized from the bottom up and won concessions.