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Hunts Point Workers Went on Strike and Won

Today, a 1,400-person strike by Teamsters Local 202 ended. Workers won an immediate 70-cents-an-hour raise, and gave up no concessions to their bosses. It's a victory worth celebrating and proof that going on strike works.

The Teamsters Local 202 strike, with 1,400 workers, constituted the first major work stoppage of 2021. (Alex Moore/Teamsters Joint Council 16)

A strike that began on Sunday, January 17 came to an end around noon today when 1,400 Hunts Point produce market workers, members of Teamsters Local 202, overwhelmingly ratified a three-year contract. The majority of New York City’s produce passes through Hunts Point, making it a critical chokepoint, a fact that ratcheted up pressure on the workers for a quick settlement. 

Having persisted in the face of aggressive police and freezing temperatures, the union declared victory. As the City reports, Local 202 president Dan Kane called the contract “the largest deal we’ve ever signed.” This morning, some 97 percent of the striking workers voted in favor of ratifying the contract. 

The contract includes an immediate raise of 70 cents an hour, followed by a 50 cent raise in 2022. For workers who currently make $18.57 an hour, as well as drivers, 2023 will see a 65-cents-an-hour raise. Warehouse workers currently earning $20.70 will receive a $1,300 bonus in 2023 instead of the 65 cents. Workers also successfully fought off management’s push to make workers pay additional contributions to family health care benefits.

The mantra all week was: we want a $1-an-hour raise. The final contract totals a $1.85-an-hour raise over the three years of the contract, falling short of the demand for an immediate $1-an-hour raise but going well beyond the 32 cents an hour and increased employee contributions to health-care costs offered by management last weekend, a counterproposal workers called “disrespectful,” which led them to strike. 

So ends a long week on the Bronx strike line that included arrests late Monday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showing up on multiple nights to support the workers and serve pizza (she wasn’t the only politician to join the picket line: over a dozen local electeds and political candidates made appearances), and plenty of music and dancing, all under the watchful eyes of Scabby the Rat. 

But as one workplace action ends, others carry on. Some 400 steelworkers at NLMK Pennsylvania are locked out of work after beginning a strike in August of 2020. The Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) is currently conducting a membership vote on whether to take workplace action on Monday in response to the city’s insistence on the need for teachers to return to in-person instruction. Teachers in Bellevue, Washington are rebelling against similar demands, while teachers just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are getting ready to strike on February 1 if no agreement with their district is reached by the end of the month. Around 200 Teamsters are striking at the Marathon Petroleum refinery in St. Paul Park, and workers at Borgers USA, which supplies parts for General Motors plants, have been striking for several days in Norwalk, Ohio. Ski patrollers are “not on strike, just practicing” at Vail Resorts. 

Some of these workplace actions involve fewer workers than the Teamsters Local 202 strike, which with 1,400 workers constituted the first major work stoppage of 2021, but each time people take collective action on the job and win, working-class confidence grows, and not just among those who took the action. Indeed, the Hunts Point strike saw hundreds of people reinforcing the picket line in support – other unionized workers, Bronx residents, and New Yorkers who had simply heard about the strike and wanted to support it. Each time that happens, no matter a strike’s size, it has a ripple effect.

A similar dynamic is unfolding at other sites of workplace action across the country. Add in the context of a devastating, isolating pandemic and these demonstrations of the courage to collectively fight for a better life become all the more important.