Stella workers standing strong

By Jessica Carmona-Baez and Theresa Lee

NEW YORK--Two chartered buses full of exuberant Stella D'oro Biscuit Co. strikers and supporters left the Bronx on May 11 to take their fight directly to the corporate headquarters of Brynwood Partners in Connecticut.

Workers set out to send a message to the management of the Stella D'oro cookie factory that they are unwilling to accept draconian cuts to wages and benefits and an increase in employee health care costs.

"We have to make them listen to us" said striker Gurdip Mann. "They are trying to lower our wages so they can sell [the factory] quickly and make a profit. Profit is the most important thing to them. They don't care about the workers. They have raised the price of their cookies four times in two years."

As strikers were boarding the buses, supporters were outside, chanting and showing solidarity. As the strike enters its ninth month, the stress on the workers is increasingly difficult, yet their determination remains strong. As one striker said, "This is to let them know we are serious and we are not backing down until they hear us and come back to the negotiating table!"

Brynwood bought the factory in 2006 and, in typical corporate style, is attacking the workers to secure profits. Brynwood is insisting on a 25 percent pay cut, an elimination of the pension fund and an increase in health care costs. The company has brought in scab workers, and deplorable conditions continue to exist within the factory.

Strikers and supporters are mobilizing next for a rally on May 30 where they will take their protest to the streets in a march to the Stella D'oro factory. Many area unions have endorsed the strike, including the Communication Workers of America, Transport Workers Union and the United Federation of Teachers. Groups including the International Socialist Organization, the Campus Antiwar Network, the Private Health Insurance Must Go Coalition and the Bronx Clergy Coalition are mobilizing their members to rally and march in solidarity.

As striker Mike Filipo summed up, "We are going to Connecticut to let them know that, even after nine months, we still have unity and we are still going strong. We are going to let them know that we are serious about winning and we are not going to give up until we win!"