Strike delayed at Hunts Point produce market, biggest in US

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 15, 2015 10:36 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — More than 1,000 workers at the nation's largest wholesale produce market are holding off on a strike while a federal mediator gets involved with contract talks.

Members of Teamsters Local 202 agreed on Thursday to put off any action at the Hunts Point Market until Sunday at 4 p.m. The original deadline was Friday.

A walkout could mean that restaurants, grocery stores and homes within about a 50-mile radius of the South Bronx produce hub would have to scramble for fresh fruits and vegetables. The market's management says measures are in place to keep the massive building open. The union hopes that won't be necessary.

"We are ready, willing and able to meet with the federal mediator and the businesses to try and settle this contract," Local 202 president Daniel Kane Jr. said in a statement.

Kane said the needs of the workers, who earn between $37,000 and $50,000 a year, haven't changed. He said union members are asking for a raise of $5 a day, or about $1,000 a year, from merchants on a three-year contract.

A Hunts Point Produce Cooperative spokesman, Robert Leonard, said the two sides "were just pennies per hour apart from their last offer on wages for the majority of the new contract period." But he said the union chose instead "to make their arguments in the press."

Negotiations broke down earlier this week when the union rejected the proposed salary raises it says aren't keeping up with the cost of living. Management offered $16 a week for the first year, followed by $22 the second and third years.

"These businesses have never done better, but they are refusing to pay a fair wage to the people who do the work," Kane said. "These workers feed New York. They should be able to put food on the table, too."

Workers also are fighting proposed increases in health care costs.

The strike vote came on Tuesday. The last strike at the Hunts Point Market was in 1986.