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Immigrant workers protest Tom Cat Bakery after bakery demands to see documentation

Tom Cat (Facebook)

March 22, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan

Immigrant workers at a Long Island City bakery rallied today after they were threatened with mass firings.

According to workers, Tom Cat Bakery, an industrial bakery at 43-05 10th Street in LIC, threatened about 30 immigrant workers with firings last week following an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

The employees said that they were told they would be fired after 10 business days if they did not provide new employment documents indicating they were legally able to work in the US.

“We work hard, pay taxes and have given so much to make Tom Cat into a hugely successful company,” said Sabino Milian, a worker at the factory. “We refuse to be thrown away like the bakery’s garbage, and we will advance forward together.”

The workers are all members of Brandworkers, a non-profit that brings food manufacturing workers together to fight for good jobs and a sustainable food system. They decided that rather than give in to the demands of the factory, they would protest instead.

“Tom Cat has a golden opportunity to act responsibly and stand up to the President Trump’s harsh immigration policies,” said Haeyoung Yoon, director of strategic partnerships for the National Employment Law Project. “The company can and should be a leader by doing all it within the bounds of the law to protect its workers who have baked and delivered their bread and built their company.”

In addition to asking Tom Cat to stand up to the Department of Homeland Security and preserve their jobs, the employees called on other workers throughout the country to protest with them, and eventually to hold a nationwide general strike on May 1.

“We risked a lot to come to this country in order to make a better life for our kids,” said Tom Cat worker Librada Antigua. “The Trump administration may want us to disappear, but I’m not leaving my children for anything. Our unity is our strength, and our commitment is to victory.”

Tom Cat Bakery is an arm of one of the world’s largest multi-national baking companies, Yamazaki Baking. It provides bread to Citarella Gourmet Market, Darden Restaurants and the Grand Hyatt, among other companies.

The company was not immediately available for comment.

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50 Comments

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Anonymous

2000 workers are on strike here in ny tri state area
Against spectrum cable aka charter aka time warner cable and not a peep in the news. 30 people who came here illegally make the news every ten mins. What a effing joke this is the America liberals want outsiders first hard working Americans come second.

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james madison

There are few things I am not getting. First – is why are they protesting against the employer who gave them the work in the first place? If ICE comes in the game is up. Next – and on the other hand – every one of you xenophobes out there have probably never picked crops or put an apron on in your life. These people are taking the jobs that you don’t want and couldn’t do on your best day. I am more and more troubled by the fact that the government came in to the businesses in lower NY and forced a $15 minimum wage and then raids a place to toss out workers. And you wonder why people in Montana and Idaho are living in gated compounds with NRA stickers on the front gate?
Deport the criminals. Give the people who want to work the status to do so. I cannot believe that the government is spending the time and resources on what amounts to less than 3% of the US population. Give them their status and get the damn tax revenue.

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yasss

Tom Cat should be fair. I
If a company values their employees they should look out for them.

I guarantee you they would have to pay legal / US born citizens a higher wage than what these employees may be earning.
That is why so many companies hire undocumented and illegal workers to begin with.

I hope they can get their paperwork in order so they can stay and continue to be a part of the workforce.

We all know how many able bodied americans are sitting back cashing checks when they could be out earning a living.

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james madison

Yeah right. You really believe American workers want to arrive at 2 am to work in a bakery? These workers were just raised – by Governor Cuomo – to $11 per hour and will be at $13 by the end of the year. I don’t see any hipsters lining up to get a job. They don’t hire them because they are illegal. They hire them because the US worker doesn’t want to get their hands dirty.

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MRLIC

Paul, Frank I agree with you 100%. As for Time’s Up.. ITIN’s are used widely by Illegals from what I read were not their intended use originally. The FAKE SSN’s ate bad enough. Why can’t these ITIN users become legal and get their benefits of paying taxes. NYC is a Sanctuary City and they get more than their share here. A new article last year said our Hospital system is being weighed down by non-paying Illegals. I hope rump changes this ITIN Fiasco.

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Mark Colangelo

It is not just the hospital system. Schools. Insurance. Police and fire. Ambulances. The undocumented are a burden on society. I am a big fan of immigration, I just don’t like freeloaders. There are a lot of them. When I was struck by a hit and run driver the police told me that it is extremely common to run. They said the driver was most likely under the influence or undocumented.

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Deport Illegal Aliens

While it may be true that they are hardworking people – the fact remains that they broke the law if they entered the U.S. illegally.
I hope this situation shows people that if they follow the U.S. immigration laws, they won’t have to live with the stress of being caught and deported. The payoff of following the law is the security of knowing that nobody can pick you up and deport you.

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Dan

Not to give them a pass but I don’t exactly know what they expect Tom Cat to do. Federal laws which have been in place for decades and essentially unenforced by several presidential administrations are now starting to be enforced. They basically have two options: 1.conform to the law or 2. be heavily fined and possibly shut down. Tom Cat shouldn’t have hired undocumented workers to begin with, but as we all know virtually every company has been doing this for years. It sucks for these people who undoubtedly have been busting their asses in this bakery for years but if they aren’t legally eligible to work in this country they don’t have a leg to stand on.

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Robert P

The one question I have is if you love this country so much why aren’t you a American citizen or a green card holder. If your here illegally adios and stop demanding rights you are not entitled too, just because all the liberals say you are. That is one of the problems of this country right now. You break the law pay the price.

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Anonymous

And what price does Tom Cat pay for breaking the law, Robert P.? Again, it’s a two-way street. Illegal immigrants are here because sleazy firms like Tom Cat HIRE them. Businesses — many of them supported by conservative Republicans — that exploit illegal immigration are just as much part of the problem as desperate people from Central America looking for work.

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Frank

Sorry to break it to you, but many firms headed by liberal Democrats exploit illegal immigration just as much as the Republicans.

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Mac

Will Tom Cat be fined for its willing participation in this scheme? They violated the laws and profited big for many years. Use the money to help build the wall.

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Paul

you know ive come to accept and even respect undocumented workers…they certainly work hard and do things that most adult would feel repulsed or simply too good to do. But in New York City, it seems you’d have more rights, benefits and privileges as an illegal immigrant than an actual citizen. Unlike most readers here who just talk out of their self righteous behind and I presume will come here and say “Paul hate immigrants blah blah blah”…Fact of the matter is, you head on over to Forest Hills, and you’ll see thousands of well dressed, well taken care of illegals with full healthcare and housing…with not a single job…thanks to the courtesy of NYC. Let ICE come down there and have a field day.

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Moraine Ortiz

Are you people for real ? Blaming Tom cat?
The labor groups you are affliliating your self with will cost you more … Don’t come into the country and demand more rights … and you all wonder why Hilary lost and Debalsio is next …

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Anonymous

Of course Tom Cat deserves a big part of the blame. They are openly breaking federal labor laws to exploit workers, make profits they aren’t entitled to and cheat other lawful potential employees from a job. If we are going to enforce immigration and labor laws in this country, then it’s BS to only blame immigrants. We wouldn’t have the problem we have if greedy and unethical companies like Tom Cat didn’t play fast and loose by taking advantage of the screwed-up system we have in this country.

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MRLIC

They pay TAXES Do they have FORGED Social Security Numbers???? How do they pay these taxes? Tom Cat Bakery stand your ground. These people never should have been hired in the first place.

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Time's Up

Actually, yes – undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes. Some indeed use fake SSN’s. As a consequence, they never get to benefit from their payroll tax deductions while the rest of us receive a windfall. Others use ITIN’s as a substitute for SSN’s. We should be thanking them for that.

I have no problem with what the bakery’s doing. But let’s not spew bullshit. That undocumented immigrants never pay taxes and only exploit our social services is a total myth that needs to die.

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Frank

Maybe those taxes paid are part of their restitution to the society they are disrespecting by breaking the law.

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zul

Yes you can pay taxes and be undocumented. You are assigned a tax identification number. I knew a couple of people that did that!

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Who are we

I say we keep the hard working undocumented and send the bigoted treasonous trump supporters to Russia where they belong

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?

What about the hardworking undocumented folks who are also Trump supporters? Do we keep them or kick them out, and for which reason? #NoWonderWeLost2016

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Nick

Sorry to tell all of you- but this is the law. When I hire anyone to put on the books, they have to prove their citizenship. So once again all of this for naught- reward illegal behavior. And yes my parents were immigrants and you know what is crazy- they actually came here legally and became residents through the process LEGALLY.

Here is an option if it is so bad here because of these awful laws and actually have borders, choose another country to sneak into of your choice I am sure they will let you just come in live and work there- no need to follow their laws either.

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Mark Colangelo

Agreed. Americans don’t hate immigrants but many Americans don’t appreciate illegal immigrants. My wife is is not an American citizen. Green card holder. No, you can’t just walk over a border. If you do, you are breaking the law. I don’t care if you have cute little children that were born here. You are illegal. Period. As for Tom Cat, I go by there almost every night. The streets are lined with vans, campers and people sleeping in cars.

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annoyed

What country can enter ILLEGALLY and demand what these people are demanding?!? And what they want provided to them because they are entitled to these “rights”. Even Heaven has gates and people wishing to enter have to be VETTED. Such nerve! We wonder why our country is in the condition that is in!

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Anonymous

Yeah, I’m sure Americans will be lined up around the block to take those low paying bakery jobs. The whiny Trumptards will soon find out, along with their insurance doubling, so will the cost of food. But I’m sure Americans can’t wait to pick their own lettuce.

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Anonymous

Don’t be so patronizing. Plenty of people — including high school or college kids, new legal immigrants, retired people, chronically underemployed — would the chance to get one of these $15 per hour jobs. We need to promote the value of hard work again in this country. Many of us had these tough jobs early in our work lives and benefited from them. Letting companies like Tom Cat blatantly break the law is clearly not the answer.

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E.

Do you really think those workers were getting $15 an hour? By hiring undocumentated workers mean the pays are below what legal workers should get paid. Those workers were probably getting $8-9 and work 10-12 hours per day to support themselves. SMH

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Anonymous

You didn’t get my point. My whole argument in the multiple posts I’ve made here is that we need to hold firms accountable to help eliminate the insane situation we find ourselves. They need to hire ONLY legal workers and pay them the going hourly rate. We’ve gotten way too lazy in this country about employment laws: on one hand, illegal workers flood into the country and take entry-level jobs teens and retirees used to do; on the other hand, slick firms like Tom Cat exploit the system by paying desperate illegal workers peanuts while they rake in the money for themselves. I’m with you — no one should be earning $8 an hour for 12-hour shifts. But these people shouldn’t be working in this country to begin with, and firms like Tom Cat shouldn’t be hiring them either.

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james madison

Yes I know for a fact they are getting paid $11 per hour and are going to $13 by the end of the year. You don’t and will not see any of your “teen and seniors” lining up for jobs even at $15 per hour because THEY AND THEIR AMERICAN COUNTERPARTS DO NOT WANT TO DO PHYSICAL LABOR. And, the days of paying workers under the table in the bakery business and food business is long gone. You obviously don’t ever set foot in any type of manufacturing plant in the NY metro area because the worker’s comp risk (now criminal) and IRS wised up to cash back in the 90s.
So your ‘sane’ scenario is met half way -they are paying the wages but to the only people who will take the job. You are seriously misinformed.

Frank

Perhaps some of the jobless in Queensbridge should line up for these jobs or lose their benefits. If, as a nation, we cannot pick our own lettuce or hire people at a wage who will do it legally, we deserve to starve.

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your neighbor

Why are we equating this with picking lettuce in some far flung field in the middle of nowhere? This is not dirty manual labor – this is working in a bakery in the middle of a huge city – a workplace that is required to be kept clean or gets shut down.

Definitely a great opportunity for folks from Queensbridge who want good, steady work that they could not formerly get due to the actions of illegal immigrants and employers who happily ignored the laws.

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Astoria Resident

The problem with the “pick our lettuce” focus is that as agriculture goes, it’s seasonal work. America has always brought in ‘migrant’ workers from south of our borders to perform this task. They did the work and they left. Americans, who live here, cannot survive on seasonal work.

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lic joe

Wow. Asking someone to break federal law so you can continue to break the law? These people should count their blessings that they were able to work there for so long. Not sure how they got the jobs in the first place, my employer asked everyone for passports or other documentation 5 years ago so they could remain compliant.

Hopefully the jobs go to some of the out of luck people in the Queensbridge houses.

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yasss

Out of luck….or lazy?

You don’t think there are enough jobs to go around?

I am not saying everyone there is collecting benefits, but I am certain there and elsewhere in our city people are taking advantage of a defunct system

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Frank

Methinks the workers doth protest too much. Tomcat was doing these workers a favor by allowing them to bring in their paperwork instead of inviting ICE to come in an ask. This is how responsible businesses should be behaving, only hiring legal labor. You see, if you are here illegally, you shouldn’t be allowed to work or stay in the country. It is called the law, and we should aspire to be a nation of laws.

Hang tough, Tom Cat – don’t back down!

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Anonymous

You are being far too easy on greedy firms like Tom Cat. They broke the law by hiring undocumented workers and should be punished. We have a huge problem of underemployment in this country. In our neighborhood alone, their are plenty of able-bodied people who would do these jobs if they were brought in honestly and paid fairly. You can’t solely blame some desperate person who came to this country trying to improve their lives. If slick operators like Tom Cat weren’t given such freedom to exploit them, maybe we wouldn’t have such a big illegal immigration problem we have.

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Frank

Sure – we need to crack down on firms hiring illegals and depressing wages, but, in this specific scenario, it would be arguably worse for Tom Cat to knuckle under to the demands of these workers. One side knew they were breaking the law and are acting entitled about it; the other should have figured it out earlier and is trying to get right with the law.

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Anonymous

Tom Cat didn’t know they employed exploitable undocumented workers? Gimme a break !

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Anonymous

The companies like Tom Cat that hire undocumented workers in the first place should be fined or otherwise penalized. What are they trying to hide?

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Frank

I am sure JVB and Baloney will be there to stand up for their “rights” and “resist” Trump in 5…4…3…2…

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Anonymous

I don’t begrudge any worker, including undocumented workers, the right to want to stand up to themselves to an employer. They are just people trying to have a better life and took a job offered to them.

The much bigger problem is that they were in that worker-employee relationship in the first place. Ultimately, it is the employer’s job to follow the law, hire only legalized workers to do the jobs, and pay people fairly.

All this other stuff — from demonstrations for the undocumented to excuses from shady companies — is just a diversion. This country will never be a fair place unless we can count of employers to do the right thing and hire legally. PERIOD.

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Frank

Fair points, but I think you would agree that our elected representatives are part of perpetuating the diversion.

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Anonymous

Yes, immigration is one big political football, used by both sides to score points with voters. It’s so out of hand that it’s become impossible to say you want fair employment laws and stricter enforcement without being labeled a right-wing fanatic. I’m not. I’m a liberal Bernie guy who feels we need to find a way to get more young people, retirees who need extra money and LEGAL immigrants in the job market.

yasss

Tom Cat Bakery should have been more thorough with their application process if they didn’t want potentially undocumented workers in their company.

They hired them because they could pay them less.

Reply

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