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Stella D’Oro workers take struggle to Wall Street

Published Sep 30, 2009 9:33 PM

Workers at Stella D’Oro Biscuit Co. are still fighting to keep their plant and jobs in the Bronx, even after a hard-fought, 11-month strike ended in victory and a favorable National Labor Relations Board ruling.

Brynwood Partners, a private equity vulture that bought the plant in 2006, has now sold it to Lance, Inc., which plans to move the company to anti-union Ashland, Ohio.

Workers protest outside offices of
Goldman Sachs.
WW photo: Mike Eilenfeldt

The workers say this is criminal because it involves moving out machinery that was paid for by $9 million in New York City tax abatements.

On Sept. 25 a large contingent of fired-up Stella D’Oro workers joined hundreds of chanting supporters in front of Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street global giant in the commercial and investment sector that received billions in bailouts and is the underwriter in the sale of Stella D’Oro.

Its executives are well rewarded for sabotaging the rights of workers, their unions and communities. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO, is one of Wall Street’s highest-paid executives. Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, an international law firm with expertise in acquisition finance deals, which has revenues of $1.7 billion, has been retained by Brynwood Partners and Goldman Sachs to close the deal. Stella D’Oro workers are facing cold-hearted class enemies—the bailout robber barons.

Mike Filippou, executive committee member of Bakery Workers union Local 50 and the main spokesperson for the workers during their long, hard struggle, spoke to the rally: “We’re here at Goldman Sachs for a reason. Goldman Sachs gets so much money from our taxes and from the stimulus package. And what do they do? They’re moving the jobs out of the Bronx and out from New York to make a profit. We’re here to make everybody know what Goldman Sachs does to working people like us to make a profit. We’re here to tell them that we’re not going to allow them to do that.”

After the protest, Stella D’Oro workers led a militant march up Broadway to City Hall, chanting, “We are Stella” and “Keep Stella in the Bronx! Fight! Fight! Fight!”

They carried two huge red banners created in Guatemala in tribute to the heroic 11-month strike, which began in August 2008 and ended in July of this year. That’s when the NLRB ruled that Brynwood Partners had committed unfair labor practices, used scabs and refused to bargain with the union. During the strike, not one worker crossed the picket line.

Marchers targeted multi-billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his refusal to enforce tax abatement laws that Brynwood and its cohorts on Wall Street have trampled on.

The phenomenal unity of the Stella D’Oro family of immigrant workers from many nations, with the majority women, gradually won support from the community. Workers in solidarity with the community pushed the City Council, the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, local elected officials and even sections of the corporate media to support their cause.

Unfortunately, Richard Trumka, newly elected president of the AFL-CIO, passed up an opportunity to deliver a message of support when he recently visited Wall Street and the Kingsbridge Armory, which is only a few blocks from Stella D’Oro in the Bronx.

George Kahsaay, a strike captain who never missed a day on the picket line, summed it all up: “It’s not over till it’s over. We’re going to fight all the way. Doesn’t matter how big they are. We’re going to fight them and we’re going to win this war.”

Eilenfeldt is a delegate to the New York City Central Labor Council and a member of the Bail Out the People Movement.