Fight to keep Sunset Park jobs

June 29, 2011 Heather Chin
Share this:

Last month, a Sunset Park food processing facility announced itsdecision to move operations from its location on the 56th Streetwaterfront to Moosic, Pennsylvania – and along with it, the 148jobs currently held by Brooklynites.

The announcement by Maramont Corporation on May 18 sparked anoutcry from union and non-union workers, as well as electedofficials who are concerned that, despite abandoning Brooklyn, thecompany will continue to hold lucrative contracts to provide foodservices to city agencies such as the Department of Education andthe Department of Homeless Services.

The intended move is slated to begin later this year, with layoffsstarting in August, and closing scheduled before the end of theyear. Of the 148 workers, 132 belong to a union and many haveworked at the plant for between five and 25 years. Maramont hasstated that it would hire non-union employees upon its move.

Politicians who have put their support behind the workers includeCouncilmember Sara González, Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, StateSenator Diane Savino and Brooklyn Borough President MartyMarkowitz, all of whom joined workers in a rally outside Maramontearlier this month.

If they decide to move, that’s their right, said Markowitz duringa rally with Workers United, which represents Maramont staff. Idon’t want to see them move, but they’re not going to take ourbusiness with them.

That Maramont is a food supplier for [city agencies], netting themmany millions of dollars, should mean that they recognize theirduty to not only provide local employment but also to deliver thefreshest food possible to our children and the vulnerable homelesspopulation, said González.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has also stated that she isactively encouraging Maramont to stay in New York City, in aneffort to keep city taxpayer money from leaving the local economy.Should Maramont move out of the city, Quinn, González and othershave said that they will not support continuing contracts withthe company.

Since the announcement, Maramont workers have mobilized, signingpetitions and participating in rallies. We have nothing to loseand everything to gain in this fight, said one worker at a Mayrally, before another worker added, We help feed everyone from thechildren at schools to the homeless in the New York City sheltersystem. We deserve to be able to provide for our ownfamilies.

Most of the workers at Maramont are Latino immigrants who livewithin Sunset Park, contributing to the local economy. Many of themare from the same families or share apartments and apartmentbuildings together. According to Luis Gomez, a Workers Unitedrepresentative, people fear that everyone losing their jobs all atonce will amplify the impact on their lives and theneighborhood.

Entire economies and communities set up around Maramont, whereworkers constantly purchase food on a daily basis. The economiesbecome dependent on this type of relationship, he said. Wedefinitely know that there are going to be local diners affected.And that’s going to be totally hindered by the massivelayoff.

The goal of the rallies, said Gomez, is to first get localpoliticians to have dialogue with the company and say, you know,you have to [fulfill] your city contracts, and then to spread theword so that, If we can’t save these jobs, at least we can bringan awareness to the question of, when we talk about millions ofdollars in contracts, how do we sustain the local communities?

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment