NEW YORK — On Thursday, October 8, City Council member Tony Avella (D, Council District 19, Queens) called a press conference to demand Mayor Bloomberg intervene to save the jobs of the embattled workers at the Stella D’oro plant in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. Lance Inc. purchased the Stella D’oro brand name in September and immediately announced plans to move production to a non-union plant in Ohio. At Thursday’s press conference, Avella called on Mayor Bloomberg to get a court injunction to stop the move based on the fact that, as part of an earlier effort to keep the plant in the Bronx, tax payer money had been given to Stella D’oro management to purchase new machinery.
Assemblyman Jose Rivera (D, Assembly District 78, Bronx) spoke at the conference, expressing his support for the Stella workers and suggesting that Bloomberg use “some of those millions” to buyout the new owners and “keep the jobs in the Bronx.”
A number of union organizers attended the event, including: Stella workers Oscar Hernandez and Mike Filippou; Joyce Alston, president of Local 50, BCTGM (the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union which represents the Stella workers); Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress; Fay Moore, president of Local 371, Social Service Employees Union; Carmen Charles of Local 420, District Council 37; Chris Silvera, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 808; and, Michelle Keller of Local 375, DC 37.
Dan Cantor, the executive director of the Working Families Party, urged the mayor to back up his rhetoric with action.
“The mayor has an obligation to stand up and actually do something,” said Cantor. “He talks all the time about making things in New York City. Here’s an opportunity to actually continue making a first rate product by first rate workers. We should accept nothing less than that.”
Discussing the negotiations with Lance, Inc., Joyce Alston said, “They have to be the most arrogant, egotistical group that we have ever come in contact with.”
Alston said that management gave a date range of October 9 through October 23 when asked when they planned to close the plant — leaving the workers in limbo.
Echoing the sentiments of Assemblyman Rivera, Carmen Charles of Local 420 called on Mayor Bloomberg to use his wallet to save the jobs of the Stella workers: “Mr. Mayor, Stella D’oro workers are New Yorkers so put your money where your mouth is.”
Chris Silvera of the Teamsters argued that “Stella D’oro is as much an institution in New York as the New York Yankees or the Giants or the Jets” and that the mayor’s office should work to preserve this institution.
“I have to fault Big Labor for not being there the way we should be there in support of the Stella D’oro workers,” Silvera said. He said that a boycott in New York might make Lance rethink moving the factory to non-union facilities in Ashland, Ohio.
As the conference was wrapping up and speakers were urging attendees to come to the Bronx the following day to resist Lance’s efforts to close the plant and remove the machinery, Mike Filippou received a call from management. Filippou conferred with Local 50 president Alston who told the assembled press, Stella supporters and union leaders that the plant was being shutdown at 3 p.m. — within the hour.
Council member Avella said that “This points out how disgraceful the new owners are, how disgraceful it is that Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York are allowing this to happen without showing even the littlest respect for the workers here. Much less the fact that tax payer dollars went into buy the machinery which is now going to be moved to Ohio. If anything the mayor of the City of New York has a fiduciary responsibility to protect tax payer money and city property. We bought those machines. We have to call upon Mike Bloomberg to stop this now — and shame on him if he doesn’t do it immediately.”