Fresh Direct Gets Fresh with its Immigrant Workforce

robbins.jpgFresh Direct doesn’t have a great relationship with POC communities to begin with. The company that offers NYC buyers the chance to order produce, groceries, and prepared food online and have it all delivered to their door, won’t deliver to most POC ‘hoods. But ever since the company, based in Queens, began it had relied on a largely undocumented Latino labor force. These workers, mostly relegated to working the graveyard shift in a freezing cold warehouse, are barely paid minimum wage and receive no benefits. Those hundreds of workers now are preparing not for the holiday season but to be without jobs ever since the company announced that all employees needed to prove that they were legal residents thanks to an impending Immigration and Customs Enforcement (‘ICE’) at the Department of Homeland Security official review.

These types of audits, a variation on raids, aren’t new or uncommon. What has people literally protesting (there is a press conference at NYC City Hall as I write this) is the timing.

The announcement of la migra coming comes just as workers inside the company were pushing to become part of a union raising suspicions that Fresh Direct itself called Homeland Security as a way to get the unions out of its warehouse and scare workers, documented and undocumented alike. Pro-union employees were fired and other workers simply walked off the job in tears and full of fear.

Company officials insisted they had nothing to do with the feds’ sudden interest in their plant, although they were careful to avoid answering any questions directly. A spokeswoman sent e-mail messages stating that the company had asked ICE to delay its audit, given the pending union election, which is scheduled for December 22 and 23, but had been denied. Any suggestion that the company had invited the feds in the door to thwart the union election, said the statement, was “outrageous.”

What a coincidence. It’s likely now that any vote for warehouse workers to go union may fail.

This is actually the second union related battle at the company. A few years ago a small, lesser known union had pushed its way through the company, with company support, and won a representation election engaging drivers of the company. The contract lasts only 5 years and includes no minimum starting wage but has a maximum that caps the highest wages the company must pay at $12 to $18.

Via / The Village Voice and El Diario – La Prensa Print Edition

Via / The Village Voice

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