Posted on April 21, 2017
‘Day Without Bread’ Protest Calls Attention To Threatened Immigrant Bakery Workers
Workers at Tom Cat bakery who face termination after a Department of Homeland Security audit found 31 employees without proper legal documentation have set up a “Day Without Bread” action Friday to draw attention to immigrant causes and “protest the Trump administration’s inhumane clampdown on immigrants who are the backbone of New York’s economy.”
Brandworkers, a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to protecting and advancing” food employees, will help stage the Day Without Bread movement, which includes a rally outside the Long Island City bakery on Friday morning from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. The action also calls on New Yorkers to abstain from buying bread anywhere on Friday as a protest in solidarity with the threatened workers.
Some city restaurants have also joined the cause. Samesa in Williamsburg will donate 50 cents on every dollar for purchases of bread items, and Bed-Stuy caterers Harvest & Revel will donate a portion of sandwich sales to help the targeted workers.
Workers at Tom Cat—which started in a Queens garage in 1987 and is now a subsidiary of Yamakazi, the biggest baked-goods company in Japan—were informed in March they had 10 days to file the appropriate DHS paperwork or be fired. Following worker protests, the workers were given until April 21st to provide adequate working documents or be terminated from their positions and also potentially face deportation.
Working with their union, the workers were also able to negotiate a deal whereby anyone who couldn’t produce paperwork by the 21st could take an unpaid leave of absence for six months. At the end of that six months, those who could provide papers would be allowed back at their current titles; those who couldn’t would be fired but receive a severance package that includes benefits, though workers have rejected that package and are demanding a renegotiation.
Many of the workers affected by the DHS’s requirements have been employed by Tom Cat for 10 years—and in some cases 20 years. “These are very skilled craftspeople baking excellent bread. I think the company, having benefited from this work…needs to make sure those years of service get valued,” Brandworkers founder Daniel Gross told the Daily News. “The employees are absolutely demanding severance that reflects their contribution.”