Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday expressed solidarity with roughly 1,400 essential workers at the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market in the Bronx, several of whom were arrested earlier this week while striking for hazard pay and better healthcare benefits during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"Essential workers should not have to go on strike for decent pay, and no worker should be threatened for exercising their constitutional rights," said Sanders, a democratic socialist from Vermont.
Sanders added that he supports the union-led effort, which seeks to raise wages by $1 per hour and secure improved benefits for those who work at the largest produce market in the world and have sacrificed to continue providing most of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the New York City region.
Essential workers should not have to go on strike for decent pay, and no worker should be threatened for exercising their constitutional rights.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 20, 2021
Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat who represents a congressional district that includes parts of the Bronx as well as Queens, also endorsed the strike.
She shared information about how to contribute moral or financial support to Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents 120,000 employees in 27 locals, including the striking workers who are members of Local 202.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 20, 2021
On strike since Saturday, six workers on the union's peaceful picket line were arrested between Monday night and Tuesday morning for blocking traffic.
"If you live in New York and had produce during the pandemic, odds are that's because of these workers," journalist Alex Press tweeted on Tuesday night. After having risked their health to feed millions of people throughout the pandemic, Press noted, "they deserve the city's solidarity, and it's a disgrace that any of them were arrested."
if you live in New York and had produce during the pandemic, odds are that’s because of these workers—the majority of NYC’s produce passes through Hunts Point. they deserve the city’s solidarity, and it’s a disgrace that any of them were arrested https://t.co/dKYVqDtWnY
— Alex Press (@alexnpress) January 19, 2021
Daniel Kane Jr., president of Teamsters Local 202, also condemned the arrests. "It is outrageous that after being called essential heroes for months, several of our members were arrested while peacefully protesting for a raise today," Kane said Tuesday in a statement.
"These are the essential workers who went to work every day through the worst of the pandemic to feed New York," he continued. "All they are asking for is a dollar-an-hour raise so they can feed their families, too. The fact that they were arrested on Martin Luther King Day reminds us what side of history we are on."
"They can use riot cops to get trucks into the market, but the workers they need to unload the trucks are still on the picket line," the union leader added. "We will stay on strike until these employers pay their workers the essential wage they deserve."
In a video recorded earlier this week by a local CBS News channel, Kane said that "it's not good enough just to clap for them, and say they're essential. When they ask for a decent raise, a fair number, they should be told, 'Yes you can have that, and thank you.'"