Stakes get higher at Stella D’oro

June 4, 2009

Jessica Carmona-Baez reports from a demonstration in support of workers who have spent the last nine months on the picket line.

NEW YORK--More than 500 people gathered May 30 for a march and rally in support of strikers at the Stella D'oro cookie factory in the Bronx.

The crowd was made up of strikers and their families, teachers, professors, students, religious groups and community organizations. The rally was the largest and most militant to date, and reflects the ongoing commitment of the strikers to win their fight.

The Stella workers, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 50, have been on strike for over nine months over a proposed new contract that includes a 25 percent reduction in pay, increased health care costs, elimination of overtime pay and the gutting of pensions.

The contract was pushed on workers by Brynwood Partners, a Wall Street investment firm that took over the company in 2006. Management has brought scabs in to keep the factory running, though strikers say production isn't back to full speed.

As the crowd marched, people chanted, "We are Stella!" and "The workers united will never be defeated!" Drivers honked their horn in solidarity. Though the police had a strong presence, some of the marchers were able to push through up to the factory gates and chant.

Some 200 Stella D'oro strikers and their supporters on the march in the Bronx
Some 200 Stella D'oro strikers and their supporters on the march in the Bronx (Brian Jones | SW)

As the strike nears its one-year anniversary, the stakes are getting even higher. At the one-year mark, strikers will lose their unemployment benefits and be forced to take jobs elsewhere to make ends meet. The union will also face possible decertification.

In addition to organizing pickets and rallies, strikers and supporters have also been organizing a boycott campaign. Buttons and stickers with the slogan "Boycott Stella D'oro!" are being distributed citywide. Supporters are going to local grocery markets and asking store managers to stop selling Stella D'oro cookies until the strike is over.

The strikers have been attending political conferences and events and union meetings to spread the word about their strike and to organize more broadly.

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