Workers Picket Upper East Side Specialty Market

A group of workers and supporters picketed outside Agata and Valentina this past Saturday as part of an ongoing labor dispute with the company. Workers are calling on A&V to respect its workers’ right to organize and stop engaging in illegal anti-union activity.

Agata and Valentina, located on 79th & 1st, is one of many upscale gourmet grocery stores in the Upper East Side. Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has been organizing the largely immigrant workforce in the gourmet supermarket industry. UFCW Local 1500 has already won union contracts at D’Agostino’s and Gristedes.

About fifteen people were on the picket line on Saturday. Picketers held signs, handed out flyers, spoke to customers about the dispute, and chanted pro-worker slogans. Joining Local 1500 were members of Brandworkers International, a Queens-based workers’ center that works in solidarity with Local 1500.

In the summer of 2008, workers began meeting with UFCW organizers and decided to assert their right to join a labor union. The supermarket responded viciously, using misinformation and intimidation tactics to scare the workers into staying away from the union. In March, Roberto De La Cruz, a counter person in the produce department, was illegally terminated for his union activity. Says De La Cruz: “I was called into the office and fired. They told me it was because I supported a union.”

UFCW Local 1500 has been holding daily picket lines outside the supermarket for six months. Local politicians have spoken out in support of the workers, including NYC Council Member Jessica Lappin.

More information about the campaign can be found at www.nothingfineaboutit.org.