Food / Jobs

Produce market braces for strike

Feds step in, push deadline to Sunday

Workers at the Hunts Point Terminal Market say they will walk out Sunday afternoon at 4 o’clock if the fruit and vegetable wholesale businesses they work for don’t meet their demands for wage hikes and other concessions.

The nation’s largest produce market, which supplies fruits and veggies to restaurants and groceries across the city and parts of the east coast, has not been subject to a strike in almost 30 years. A strike was averted two years ago following a brief standoff, before the sides agreed to a three-year contract that expired earlier this week.

Teamsters Local 202 which represents the workers, originally  called for a strike at midnight last night, but the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service intervened yesterday afternoon, persuading workers to wait and see if a deal could be struck by Sunday.

On Tuesday, 95 percent of the 1,300 Teamsters who work at the market voted to authorize the strike.

“We are ready, willing and able to meet with the federal mediator and the businesses to try and settle this contract,” said Danny Kane., president of the local. “Our needs haven’t changed. Our members need a $5 a day raise and merchants can afford it.”

“Come Sunday, if we haven’t reached an agreement with Hunts Point owners, we will be on strike,” he said.

Negotiations between the two sides broke down earlier this week. The union says workers need a raise of $25 per week rather than the $16 per week they say they have been offered. In addition, they argue that management is demanding workers shoulder costs for their own health care and is looking to preserve a two-tiered wage system that pays newer workers less than experienced hands for doing the same job. The teamsters want the businesses to cover workers’ health care and ensure workers who perform the same tasks are paid equally regardless of seniority.

“These workers feed New York – they should be able to put food on the table too,” said Kane.

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