March 29, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
After facing a backlash for threatening to fire more than 30 immigrant workers in response to a Department of Homeland Security investigation, a local industrial bakery is now aiming to protect its workers.
Several weeks ago, management at Tom Cat Bakery, located at 43-05 10th Street in Long Island City, threatened to fire 31 immigrant workers within 10 business days if they did not produce new proof that they were legally allowed to work in the country.
Tom Cat’s decision to ask its employees for such proof came in response to an investigation by DHS.
Last week, the workers rallied outside of the bakery in protest to demand that management take their side in response to the DHS investigation.
“We risked a lot to come to this country in order to make a better life for our kids,” said Tom Cat employee Librada Antigua. “The Trump administration may want us to disappear, but we’re not leaving our children for anything. Our unity is our strength, and our commitment is to victory.”
Many local politicians voiced their support for the employees, and following negotiations, the company agreed to try to help them keep their jobs, beginning by securing an extension from DHS to delay the layoffs until April 21.
“It seems to me that since the election of President Trump, it’s been ‘open season’ on immigrants,” said State Senator Jose Peralta, who represents much of Jackson Heights. “This is jeopardizing the livelihood of hard-working immigrants, who are just trying to put food on the table and pay rent. I stand with the workers of Tom Cat Bakery as they fight for their rights.”
In addition to rallying outside of the bakery, Tom Cat employees called for workers throughout the country to fight against the crackdown on immigrant workers through a general strike on May 1.
“We are organizing not just for Tom Cat workers,” said Tom Cat employee Henry Rivera, “but for workers in New York and the whole nation to encourage them to fight for justice.”
Tom Cat workers are members of non-profit group Brandworkers, which represents food-manufacturing employees throughout the country. Brandworkers is working to launch the nationwide strike.
“As a child of parents who came to the U.S. from another country, I know that hard-working immigrants are the backbone of our society and will continue to stand with them against the wrong-headed and mean-spirited policies coming from Washington,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris.