- By MACC NYC
“As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”
- James Oppenheim
At the September General Assembly, we received a special invitation: to join a community-labor coalition committed to supporting the campaign to unionize a food factory in NYC. Supported by Brandworkers, an organization of food factory workers of color building a solidarity union with the International Workers of the World (IWW) in NYC, they soon hope to launch a public campaign. But since the campaign is presently undercover, one of the workers, who we shall only identify as A., addressed the assembly, along with Gabriel Morales of Brandworkers, to lay out the cause:
I’ve been a member of MACC for many years now. Brandworkers is a membership organization of food factory workers organizing with the IWW. Based in Long Island City, we have a unique approach to workplace organizing, to unlock the potential of local food organizing. We have members in a number of places, recovering millions of dollars in wages, defining best practices in the food factory industry, and turning the tide against a food system that is HYPER-exploitative. The US food system has its roots in slavery, imperialism, neoliberal deals. Workers are predominantly contending with extreme hardship on the job: death on the job, women workers are underrepresented in pay and power, overrepresented in terms of sexual violence, assault and harassment.Workers face staggering obstacles to forming a union.
Labor unions have had great wins in the last few years, but only 6.4% of workers are represented by a union. We as workers, anarchists, and leftists do not have the ability to express our collective power. Wage inequity in the United States is as bad as it was during WWI, one hundred years ago. Workers don’t have the organization necessary to fight back against exploitation. This situation, incredible wage inequity paired with a low level of organization is almost the exact same social context that led to an upsurge of radical unionism, often led by anarchists, in the early 20th century.
14 years ago, I was a young anarchist and hotel worker, really pulled by the philosophy of anarchism, but not grounded in anything. It’s only in union organizing that I found what I actually believed.
Thank you everybody, I would like to let everyone know my name is A__ Thank you, MACC, for this invitation. I’m going to tell you a little of my story.
I am Mexican and I have been working and living in New York for decades, making bread for decades. I am proud of my work and think I do well in it. My job description is to shape the bread - like the baguette, the babka, bread made from potato, which is delicious - there are countless shapes I can do.
There are workers at the bakery in production: shaping the bread, putting it into the oven, cutting it, putting in work orders of the bread for distributors, etc. We are a group where each worker has a role inside the factory.
Inside the factory there are also a lot of violations, wage theft, no sick days or stolen sick days. Inside the corporation, my personal thing is that we are not valued by the company.
Each of us has a different role in our lives: I am a loving person, I have pets, I love the pets, they are part of my life. We’ve been through the pandemic (we lost a worker) you may ask me, why am I talking about my pets? Because, if pets are important for us in our lives, they should be valued. We believe the company does not value us at all. We’re not important: they didn’t give us a mask during the pandemic up until now. We cannot social distance and we cannot talk about it. Why? Because it’s hectic, all the time moving around. We lost one coworker - and our employer did not even say sorry to us.
So, that’s why tonight I want to invite MACC to join our coalition: it is right now undercover. For many reasons, we are organizing under cover. But soon this is going to become viral, going to become known. We want MACC to join us for this moment.
For now, I think that’s all I want to say. I’m very thankful to allow me to express this to you. You will also need some time to talk. But thank you very much for allowing me to speak.
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