New York, NY - After news of an impending store closure, workers at the 63rd Street location of Hot and Crusty Bakery called for a 24-hour picket and store occupation, saying the company deliberately withheld rent payments following a hard-fought and successful unionization drive in May 2012. The company, owned by private equity partner Mark Samson, gave the Hot and Crusty Workers Association 11 days notice of eviction from the property, informing employees that August 31 would be their last day.
The union, led by a grassroots labor organization, the Laundry Workers Center and a contingent from Occupy Wall Street, students, faith and community members are occupying the workplace and holding an around-the-clock picket, demanding the company to discontinue its union-busting tactics, pay its rent immediately and continue to negotiate a fair contract with its workers. The company has used several bait-and-switch tactics during negotiations, threatening workers’ immigration status to deter their commitment to continuing the fight.
The August 31 closure will mean the loss of 23 jobs – including those of employees with as many as twelve years of employment with the company. Workers allege owners, including Mark Samson, Evangelos Gavalas and Nick Glendis, have a demonstrated history of wage and hour violations, intimidation, retaliation and harassment of workers in several of their businesses, as well as a pattern of closing down shops and opening under different aliases to avoid legal and economic liability. Workers have filed charges at the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the company is closing the 63rd Street shop to intimidate workers organizing at other Hot and Crusty locations.
Mahoma Lopez, a leader in the campaign who has worked at Hot and Crusty for over seven years said, “I want to send a message that we have to change the way immigrants are treated in this country. We have to show the bosses that we can’t be treated like animals any longer. We need to take radical action like people did in the civil rights movement, so that our voices can be heard. We are so happy to have the community here with us.”
Diego Ibanez, a member of Occupy Wall Street, emphasized the connection between Wall Street and workers, saying, “We’re sending a clear message to greedy bosses that we are watching and will not allow our people in the community to be oppressed any longer.”