“What?” yelled Kelly Eagan, director for Local 342, a union representing meat department workers in Brooklyn and Long Island.
“Contract!” replied the chorus of locked-out workers.
Butchers, meat wrappers, and meat clerks rallied in front of the Park Slope Key Food on Baltic Street and Fifth Avenue yesterday afternoon to demand a new contract from Pick Quick Foods Inc., owner of seven Key Food groceries in Brooklyn and Long Island. Despite negotiations that Monday evening, management and the union have still failed to broker a new agreement, said Keeley Lampo, a union representative.
The lockout began April 6th in retaliation against union workers’ short-lived strike to protest what was deemed a “gutted” contract offer from the Pick Quick Foods owner, Benjamin J. Levine.
Members have begun to feel the pain of more than a weeks-long lockout. While her finances aren’t yet dire, Bronx resident Bonnie Alarcon cares for a family of four and her 76-old mother. “It’s horrible I have to be here after so many years,” she lamented.
Workers will soon need to look elsewhere for financial help. “If the lockout goes further, they will have to apply for some aid or unemployment,” Lampo said.
Backing for the union members, however, has extended beyond just their immediate support systems. Local 812 (a collective of soft drink and beverage workers) have refused to make deliveries to Levine’s stores. In the midst of a rally, a PBR truck turned away—to the exaltation of the crowd. “Everyone’s come out to help out,” Lampo explained.
Brad Lander, the NYC councilman for the 39th District, proclaimed his support during a quick speech: “We’re going to be out here with Local 342 for as long it takes.”
In an emailed statement sent last week, Pick Quick Foods diverted blame for the current standoff: “We have made offers to the union to continue competitive wages and benefits for our employees. However, the union continues to reject those proposals and is making demands that we believe will hurt our stores and customers and, by extension, our employees.”
Local 342’s Kelly Eagan, whose voice became hoarse from shouting over the supportive honking of passing vehicles, said she simply can’t stand for it.
“We don’t do this shit in Brooklyn!”
Pick Quick Foods has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Local 342 at the National Labor Relations Board, wrote the company’s spokesperson in a Wednesday afternoon email. In the filing, the company alleges that the union’s flat-out dismissal of “all of the substantive proposals without explanation” prior to the lockout has been done in “bad faith.”
Management has also begun a leaflet campaign in their stores in response to the union’s public attacks. “The union has misrepresented our position on numerous terms in an attempt to bully us,” stated the flier. “The union alleges that we are trying to strip pay and benefits from our employees. THIS IS PATENTLY FALSE… ALL LIES.”