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Teamsters workers at huge New York produce market on strike

Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx serves thousands of trucks each day

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

A Teamsters local has gone on strike against the operators of the Hunts Point Produce Market in New York following the failure to reach a new contract agreement.

According to a statement issued by the Teamsters Joint Council 16, about 1,400 workers, primarily warehouse labor, went on strike Sunday right after the stroke of midnight. However, the association that operates the market said it continues to operate despite the walkout. 
Those workers are represented by Local 202.

In a statement, the Hunts Point Produce Market said it would remain open for business. The market said it had coordinated with the New York City Police Department and brought in a private security firm “to assure safe access is maintained for trucks bringing fresh, healthy produce in and out of the market, as well as for all who need to come purchase produce or are coming to work at the market.”

A spokesman for the Teamsters who asked not to be identified said the picketing overnight Monday and into Tuesday resulted in five arrests of picketers. He said he expected Tuesday to be a “crunch day” in determining how long and how well the cooperative that runs the market could keep it operating without the unionized workers.

In a statement, the Teamsters said most of the workers who are on strike earn between $18 and $21 per hour. 

At stake in the negotiations is a difference of 68 cents per hour. The union spokesman said the Teamsters local is seeking an increase of $1 per hour, while the union’s top offer is for a 32 cents-per-hour increase. 

He added that the employees who are on strike do include some truck drivers but tend to be warehouse workers. Although the negotiating agent for the employers is the cooperative, the workers are employed by the individual companies that make up the cooperative. 

The Hunts Point market in the southern Bronx, not far from the Cross Bronx Expressway, which is part of Interstate 95, a key distribution hub for produce going to the greater New York area. Estimates on how many trucks come in and out of the market every day range as high as 30,000.

The union also took a poke at the companies at the market, saying that individual companies that operate out of Hunts Point got $15 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans through the first round of lending under the CARES Act. 

Workers are coming off a three-year contract reached in 2018 that the union, at the time, said gave them a “significant” increase in pay.

Local news reports said this is the union’s first strike against the market in almost 35 years. 

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.