Eddie Marrero of Kingsbridge started at the Stella D’oro factory when he was 18. Marrero joined a union, BCTGM Local 50. He won a fair wage and benefits. Marrero sent his kids to private school.
Today, Marrero is 49 and on strike. He led a pack of Stella D’oro workers, union teachers, community members and socialist agitators up Broadway on Saturday, May 30 to the landmark factory. “No contract, no cookies!”
Marrero went on strike nine months ago, when factory owner Brynwood Partners proposed a wage and benefits cut; 135 workers now picket outside Stella D’oro. Brynwood bought the factory in 2006 and boosted business, then shot itself in the foot, Marrero said. Temporary workers operate the factory today.
“Years ago, we sold the bakery waste to a pig farm,” Marrero said. “The cookies that Stella D’oro has now I wouldn’t feed to a pig.”
According to Marrero, the factory has discontinued Anginetti Puffs and Angel Wings, the cookies he helped to bake.
At first, the Stella D’oro workers picketed in relative obscurity. But a boycott is underway. A number of powerful unions – NYSUT, PSC and SEIU – have decided to champion the strike. PSC president Barbara Bowen called Brynwood a “vulture capitalist.” Four months ago, the workers marched from W. 225th Street to W. 238th Street. On May 30, several hundred protestors joined in. The pack blocked traffic when someone tossed a glass bottle from the Marble Hill Houses. Protestors rushed past police at E. 238th Street to jeer at the factory. Local 50 rep Mike Filippou of Country Club asked the pack to move behind a barricade.
“We don’t want to hurt anybody,” Filippou, 44, said.
Sydia Patterson, 15, of Crotona took part in the march. Members of her church, St. Mary’s Episcopal, are behind the boycott. Jovanny Jacobo, 27, of Mott Haven also took part. Jacobo, an actor, heard about the strike on the news.
“The Bronx is poor,” he said. “We need to stand up to the bosses.”
Yorman Nunez of Kingsbridge Heights urged Bronxites to back the cookie workers.
“If we let Brynwood pay a poverty wage, all workers in the Bronx will suffer,” he said.
A union member from Hostos Community College recited The Great Tablecloth, a Pablo Neruda poem about bakeries. Stella D’oro worker Marta Macias, 59, appealed to Brynwood.
“We built the factory,” Macias said.
The National Labor Relations Board will rule on the Stella D’oro dispute this month. Maureen Tilley, 60, lives in Marble Hill. She has joined the boycott.
“I love Stella D’oro cookies,” Tilley said. “ I love unions more.”
According to Brynwood, based in Connecticut, the workers rejected a swell deal. The firm was pleased to hire temporary workers from the Bronx, a spokesperson said.
©2009 Community News Group