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NYC Stella Dora Workers Meet With Trumka
Source labornet@labornet.org
Date 09/09/26/10:09

Wed, Sep 23, 2009
Opportunity to Meet Trumka at the Kingsbridge Armory Yesterday
Report by John F, Subway Conductor, TWU Local 100 member, LRP

Hi everyone. I see that people have been asking about what happened at
the Kingsbridge Armory event yesterday. I was there and can quickly
report on what turned out to be an opportunity for some Stella D’oro
workers to meet face-to-face with new AFL-CIO President Dick Trumka.

I went to the meeting and rally yesterday (Sept. 22) outside the Armory,
which is in the process of being given over to a capitalist developer by
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to build a huge department store shopping
mall. The event was one of many events new AFL-CIO President Richard
Trumka has planned in Ohio and New York this week as part of what he
called a “Listening Tour to develop a progressive economic agenda.”
During his opening remarks, Trumka admitted that the labor movement in
the past has left far too many people behind. He highlighted the
struggles of women, Black and immigrant workers and how far we still
have to go in each of these struggles. He talked about his new
administration’s approach of trying to build lasting coalitions between
labor unions and grassroots
community groups like the group he was meeting with today, the
Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA).

KARA is a coalition of unions that want any construction and
redevelopment at the Armory to be done with union construction and other
skilled trades’ workers and community activists who want any
redevelopment of the Armory to meet the needs of the community. Many of
the community activists who spoke with Trumka about their struggle said
that the community wanted to determine what was being built there and
how it was built. Their demands are that the land be developed into
schools and community centers to help deal with the issues of school
overcrowding and the lack of services being provided to this community.

The meeting was chaired by Stuart Applebaum, Vice-President of the NYC
Central Labor Council. After making some opening comments, he suggested
that people from the community take turns introducing themselves to
Trumka. They then made their way around the conference table introducing
all the people who had been given seats at the table (which were the
various labor officials, community organizers, and clergy who make up
KARA). At this point, Applebaum saw that there are other people present
from the community and asked us to introduce ourselves.

I happened to be the first person called on and I introduced myself as a
member of TWU Local 100 and explained that I was there in support of the
struggle of the workers at Stella D’oro. I gave a brief history of the
struggle these workers have waged and the enemy they were facing. I
explained that although these workers have united in an inspiring
struggle against a vicious union busting company for over a year now,
they are now facing the very real threat of their plant being closed and
losing their jobs.

I went on to say that although there have been months and months of
demonstrations and rallies, there hasn’t been a mass mobilization of the
unionized workers of this city to support the Stella D’oro workers’
struggle. I mentioned that the largest turnout for any of the
demonstrations and rallies had been about 5-600 people. While month
after month passed while they were on the picket line, management
continued to get production through scab labor and continued to get the
scab goods out of the plant. One of the major reasons management was
able to get away with this was because there has been no mass
mobilization of the workers of this city to stop them. I pointed to the
fact that many people in the room represent tens, if not hundreds of
thousands of union workers in New York alone and that the experience of
the Stella D’oro workers’ struggle proves that their struggle cannot be
won without these workers being mobilized to join the fight. In
conclusion, I explained that the next event in support of the Stella
D’oro workers would be a march from Goldman Sachs to City Hall on
Friday, starting at 5pm. I told President Trumka that if he needed more
information about the struggle, I would be available after the meeting
to talk with him about it.

After I spoke, Appelbaum interrupted the introductions to say that the
CLC has been active in supporting the struggle of the Stella workers and
that the CLC has been in constant contact with Local 50’s elected
leadership, providing whatever support they have ever been asked to
provide. He said that the CLC is very aware of how important the Stella
struggle is and will continue to provide whatever support is needed.

About 45 minutes into the meeting, three Stella D’oro workers, Oscar,
Eddie and Jose Luis arrived and when they saw me, they all came over to
me to say hello. After the workers came over, an aide from Trumka came
to talk to me. She said that Mr. Trumka would be interested in meeting
with me about the Stella workers’ struggle after the meeting and the
rally outside the Kingsbridge Armory. Knowing that the most important
thing was to get the Stella D’oro workers the opportunity to meet with
Trumka, I immediately told the workers who were sitting near me that
Trumka wanted to speak to them about their struggle.

After Trumka had his press conference/rally outside the Armory, his
aides directed the workers and me towards Trumka to meet with him.
Trumka reached out to shake hands to the workers and the first hand he
shook was Eddie’s. Eddie made a very emotional, heartfelt appeal to
Trumka. He talked about the crisis the workers are facing with the plant
closure; explained that they have done the best they could to fight back
for over a year and not one worker crossed the picket line during the
strike. He told Trumka that they desperately need his help to stop the
plant from closing. He explained that before the strike he was working
60 hours a week, he said he never worked so hard before in his life. He
mentioned this to show that the company was not going bankrupt and that
it was not the reason why they are closing the plant. He said that they
are closing the plant because they wanted to bust the union and move
production to a non-union plant. He said that the problem is that the
owners are a bunch of hedge-fund owners and capitalists who don’t care
if they have to destroy worker’s lives in order to boost their profits.
He then begged Trumka to do whatever he can to help them win their
struggle to stop the plant from closing and save the workers’ jobs.
Eddie again mentioned the demonstration on Friday at Goldman Sachs and
City Hall, and Trumka said he knew about the demonstration.

Trumka’s response was to tell Eddie that of course he will do whatever
he can to help and that he has already been in contact with the Local 50
leadership about the struggle and will continue to provide whatever
support the Local asks for to help win their struggle. Trumka was then
quickly whisked away by his aides, but we did get a promise of help from
both him and the CLC.

I don’t think the Stella D’oro workers would have had the chance to
speak to Trumka had I not spoken up when I did, so I’m glad I was there
to help. The workers certainly seemed pleased with how the event turned
out.

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