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Sunday, November 23 2014 @ 06:05 AM CST

Bakers Rising: New York City Wobbly Bakery Workers at Amy’s Bread Announce Campaign for Better Jobs

On a blustery November morning before Thanksgiving, new IWW members, a diverse group of bakers at Amy’s Bread, kicked off an organizing campaign by marching to the site of the prominent food factory in Queens, New York, to voice their demands. Amy’s Bread supplies many of the city's most exclusive markets, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Bakers Rising: New York City Wobbly Bakery Workers at Amy’s Bread Announce Campaign for Better Jobs

By Rebecca Hayes, NYC IWW

On a blustery November morning before Thanksgiving, new IWW members, a diverse group of bakers at Amy’s Bread, kicked off an organizing campaign by marching to the site of the prominent food factory in Queens, New York, to voice their demands. Amy’s Bread supplies many of the city's most exclusive markets, restaurants, and grocery stores. The company is enjoying enormous success with an image of responsibility, sustainability, and community orientation. Now, after many long months of organizing in secret, the workers and their allies are joining together to ask Amy’s Bread to live up to their promises.

In contrast to the brand story, these workers need to work two or even three jobs to survive. Even under the company's Affordable Care Act-compliant plan, workers can't begin to afford health benefits for their families. Bakery worker Ana Rico said the company’s insurance plan would cost “about half of [her] check” given her wage of $10.50 an hour. Advancement decisions are completely arbitrary and favoritism is rampant. The workers face degrading treatment from managers, with immigrants and people of color bearing the brunt of it. Workers are pushed to work at unsafe speeds and threatened with the loss of work days if they resist. Broken machines go unfixed. Rico reported, “washing hundreds of baking trays by hand each shift because the company refuses to make basic equipment repairs.” In her own words, she is “organizing for common-sense respect.”

The workers' campaign seeks regular raises so they can live on the pay they earn, affordable health care, and respect from management each and every day. At the kickoff in November, in spite of freezing temperatures, a large group of supporters, including many IWW members, turned out to rally around the workers and accompany them as they delivered a petition to the company with their demands. Activists touted signs with messages of unity with the workers and joined in chants outside the Queens factory. The bakers spoke to the crowd about their experiences at the factory and the necessary changes they are seeking.

The NYC Industrial Workers of the World is partnering with workers' rights group Brandworkers in this historic operation. Brandworkers is a membership organization of workers in the local food production industry with an operating model focused on pursuing direct improvements at work and an enduring organized voice on the shop floor without recourse to recognition or formal collective bargaining.

This is the beginning of what is sure to be an exciting, but hard fought, direct action campaign. Amy’s Bread workers continue to need the involvement of passionate supporters. IWW members are encouraged to promote the link to the Amy’s Bread workers’ website, http://amysbread.brandworkers.org/, via e-mail and social networks. Local members are encouraged to show solidarity at public demonstrations at pivotal points in the campaign. Join Amy’s Bread workers in demanding that the bakery provide dignified jobs and help create a more just food system. Please visit the website to learn more about the workers, this movement, and ways to help. #WhoMakesAmysBread.

http://www.iww.org/content/bakers-rising-nyc-wobbly-bakery-workers-amy%E2%80%99s-bread-announce-campaign-better-jobs

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