Solidarity for Deli Workers

802 Assisting Greengrocer Campaign

Volume CIII, No. 2February, 2003

Local 802’s Organizing Department is helping with a campaign to improve the working conditions of deli workers.

The campaign, which is being promoted by the state AFL-CIO, the RWDSU and the UFCW, involves convincing deli owners to sign onto a code that promises to treat workers fairly.

In 1999, the state Attorney General’s (AG) office uncovered serious and widespread labor law violations in the greengrocer industry, which were brought forward by UFCW Local 1500. The AG obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution for workers – many of them Mexican – and forced many greengrocers to comply with the law.

Last year, the AG’s office wrote the Greengrocer Code of Conduct in order to create a minimum level of justice for the thousands of workers who stock shelves and deliver for delis in the city. The code was developed with representatives from delis, the labor movement, the Mexican worker community and the AG’s office.

While many stores are now paying the minimum wage, numerous others do not follow the law. The code is a major effort to end the sweatshop conditions in this industry.

The code requires owners to comply with state and federal labor laws, including minimum wage and hour standards and the right to organize. It also imposes additional obligations such as paying vacation and sick time, and mandates that employers attend seminars about labor law.

Employers can be monitored at any time to verify that they are complying with the code.

Organizers from 802 have assisted the UFCW and RWDSU in visiting Midtown greengrocers and pressuring them to sign the code. This involves going door-to-door to delis and visiting with the owner. If an owner is uncooperative, the unions are prepared to pass out leaflets in front of the delis.

The UFCW hopes to target three new delis every Thursday.

For information on the campaign or to volunteer, contact Organizer Milton Charles at ext. 186.