POLITICS

Ocasio-Cortez Spent Inauguration Day On A Picket Line With Essential Workers

Food and manufacturing workers in the Bronx are calling for higher wages and better health care. Their congresswoman joined them.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined food and manufacturing workers on a picket line in the Bronx on Wednesday.

The New York Democrat was spotted in her home district supporting workers at Hunts Point Produce Market, a massive wholesale operation that handles more than half the city’s fruit and vegetables. About 1,400 workers, represented by the Teamsters Local 202 union, went on strike Sunday after they reached an impasse in negotiations with management for a $1-an-hour wage increase and expanded health care coverage. Management offered a 32 cent wage increase.

The New York Democrat was seen at a Bronx Costco purchasing supplies for the workers, including hot drinks and hand warmers. Other videos posted on social media show her rallying workers through a megaphone.

“When you’re standing on this line, you’re not just asking for a dollar, you are asking for transformational change for your lives, and for the lives of every food worker across this country, for kids or food workers across the country,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

“Because there’s a lot of things upside-down right now in our economy. And one of those things that’s upside-down ... is the fact that a person who is helping get the food to your table cannot feed their own kid. That’s upside-down.”

The event also attracted the attention of several other Democrats, including Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and New York City mayoral candidates Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang.

Workers told local news organization The City that management’s reluctance to give them the raise pushed them over the edge.

“We’re not asking for very much, and if they would have gave that, then all of this right here could have been prevented. Everybody would have been working; everybody would have been happy,” warehouse worker Ismael Cancela told The City.

“All the fruits and vegetables that everyone eats, everyone continued to eat [throughout the pandemic] ’cause we was out here,” he added.

There have been hundreds of coronavirus infections reported at the produce market, and six union workers have died of COVID-19, according to a union official. If the strike continues, fruit and vegetable supplies could be affected across the tristate area.