Photo Credit: Liridona Duraku
Trade Fair Supermarkets are currently under scrutiny for unfair labor practices. The local 342 union has sided along with former Trade Fair Employees as they rally against a lockout.
On Friday May 17th the former Trade Fair workers rallied outside Trade Fair store number 9, on 89th street and 37th avenue in Jackson Heights. They were also met with the support of Senator Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights).
“I’m here to send a message to Trade Fair, that they have to deal fair, they have to sit down and have negotiations, they have to end the lockout,” said Senator Peralta.
This lockout began on March 13th when the employees went on strike for unfair labor practices such as, harassment, intimidation and threats to lose their jobs. When the protests began all those involved, mostly the meat workers, were fired and replaced.
After some pressure from the local 342 labor union some of the workers were hired back but at a lower pay rate, less hours and cut benefits. 14 workers have still not been hired back.
“We were brought back with no contract, we were full time employees with 40 hours a week. Now we are down to 24 hours a week, no benefits. It has been 2 months and some people haven’t even been called back to work. All we are asking is to come back to work with a contract and our 40 hours,” says Alexander Gonzalez a 49 year old former Trade Fair employee from store 11.
Many of these workers who have been brought back are still facing unfair labor practices.
“ What Trade Fair is doing is illegal because when you lock a group out and you bring them back you have to bring them back under previous conditions,” says Jerry Minetello, communications assistant for the 342 labor union.
The crowd outside Trade Fair made sure the store heard their cries as they chanted, “Trade fair is unfair”, “Who’s the rat? Trade Fair”, and of course “Si se puede!”
“This is a lockout, so this is different than them standing out here by choice. They had no choice, the owner took away their jobs and hired replacements and forced them to stand out here,” said Kate Meckler the communications director of the 342 labor union.
On the Trade fair website the company sends a message to its consumers about the lockout claiming the accusations against them are false.
“We provide top-notch wages, fringes benefits and safe working conditions for our meat department…UFCW local 342 has been lying to our customers about our meat products. Our meats are fresh quality. All Halal meat is certified and verified with proof of halal slaughters and can be verified with signed certificate from manufacturer,” according to the Trade fair website.
“This is a store that serves the community, I represent the community. I want to make sure they are being good neighbors,” said Senator Peralta.
There was support from other groups such as the International Socialist Organization and The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the local 348 Union and various community members.
“We support all the workers who have been locked our or have had their pay reduced. The local 342 does not stand alone,” said Ed Lynch from The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.