“If you got it, a truck brought it to you! If you got your food, your clothing, your medicine; if you got fuel for your homes, fuel for your industries, a truck brought it to you. The day our trucks stop, America stops!”- Al Pacino playing Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa in Martin Scorsese’s 2019 film “The Irishman”. The planet changed dramatically shortly after the release of the movie as the Covid-19 pandemic remade the world with over 2 million global deaths (and counting), destroyed businesses, wrecked economies, and changing nature of work. Despite all the change, some things remain the same, to wit, the continued fight for the respect that truck drivers and other essential workers fight for.
In the beginning of the pandemic, New York City was hit especially hard, yet truck drivers kept hospitals, pharmacies, groceries, and consumers well supplied. The Hunts Point Produce Market plays a vital role in keeping NYC going. About 4.5 billion pounds of food is processed at Hunts Point totaling 60 percent of NYC produce, feeding millions of New Yorkers. Supply chain workers are so integral to NYC that in June, NYC officials, advocates, and industry groups came together to Thank Food Supply Workers with Event at Hunts Point Market (Editors note: NewYorkTruckStop.com was a proud participant). NYC even rushed to create emergency overnight truck parking at Hunts Point during the height of the pandemic. Yet all is not well at the market.
On January 18th, about 150 produce handlers at the facility, represented by Teamsters Local 202 went on strike. These workers make between $18-$21 an hour and say that despite their essential worker status, they are being paid unfair wages. The union is demanding a raise of $1 an hour and an additional 60 cents to maintain health insurance. The market says it continued to pay full health insurance for its employees despite a drop of 30 percent of business last spring due to the pandemic, in addition to increasing wages $0.32 an hour. Six Hunts Point workers died of Covid-19. Shockingly, Mayor de Blasio even sent in the NYPD to break up the strike! Hopefully once this is resolved, New Yorkers will understand how important supply chain workers, especially truck drivers are to their quality of life and treat them with the gratitude and respect they deserve.
Another group of essential workers looking to get respect because of hard work during the pandemic are warehouse workers. With e-commerce booming and Amazon seeing record profits, the conditions of their warehouse workers is coming to the forefront. In Alabama, thousands of warehouse workers will begin voting next month on whether to unionize their workplace. potentially paving the way for the first US-based union shop for the company.
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