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January 9, 2007
Sweatshop Workers Fired En Masse For Organizing a Union
Anti-Immigrant Backlash In Brooklyn Leaves Warehouse Employees Without a Job in the New Year
Brooklyn, NY - Twenty-two Mexican and Chinese immigrant workers at two Chinese food warehouses here, in a fight against sweatshop conditions, have been fired in retaliation for their efforts. Both employers had negotiated contracts with the workers’ union, the Industrial Workers of the World, but repudiated their agreements without warning and fired all of their union employees. The employers told workers that they were being fired for failure to produce legal immigration documents, but when one worker did produce legal documententation, he was ignored. The union believes the sudden demand for immigration documents was a pretext for a concerted attack on a burgeoning organizing campaign in what had been a non-union industry built on callously exploited immigrant labor.
"This is horrible--we make him money and now he tosses us into the street like we're garbage," said Pedro Hidalgo Campos, a fired union worker, referring to Handyfat owner Dennis Ho. "Just because we asked for fair wages and decent treatment."
In an attempt to rise out of sweatshop conditions, workers at the two companies, Sunrise Plus Corp. (formerly EZ-Supply Corp.) and Handyfat Trading Inc., have engaged in strikes and protests, and have filed lawsuits complaining of systematic minimum wage and overtime violations. The firings come shortly after the companies, which supply food and supplies to many popular Asian restaurants in New York City, hired a new lawyer known for a no-holds-barred approach. Workers in the United States must be paid the minimum wage and have a right to organize regardless of immigration status.
"You think you can kill us but you can't," said IWW organizer, Billy Randel. "We're a scrappy bunch and we're used to fighting. This union is not going to go away."
In addition to filing anti-retaliation legal actions, the union is picketing the employers and has called for a march on Martin Luther King Day against EZ-Supply, Handyfat, and two other recalcitrant food warehouses where workers have joined the union seeking to better their very difficult working conditions.
Retail Workers Union IWW IU/660