In spite of subfreezing temperatures on streets lined with snow and ice, a multinational protest of several hundred people, mostly youth, put a Queens, N.Y.s industrial district on notice Feb. 19. Rallying in support of immigrant workers on strike since December 2006 and recently fired from Handyfat Trading and Sunrise Plus, protesters marched outside these sweatshops demanding that bosses rehire the workers and settle a contract with their union, the Industrial Workers of the World.
The predominantly Latin@ workers led the rally and then carried the protest for blocks, passing factories and sweatshops, many of whose workers had to be there in spite of the holiday. Chants raised by the noisy marchers, some using plastic buckets turned over for drumming, insisted that no worker is illegal.
Protesters included a large number of IWW supporters, a contingent of the Million Worker March and local immigrant rights organizations such as Make the Road by Walking and the Despierta Bushwick Campaign.
The protest also targeted an Associated Supermarket, which has ignored minimum wage and overtime laws for its workers for years. Workers there have neither health benefits nor vacation pay. This working class neighborhood came alive with cries of Boycott Associated, Stop Slave Wages! Chants of Shut It Down! were heard for blocks.
Labor united has won over $600,000 in illegally withheld wages for workers on Knickerbocker Avenue, where the protests were held.