Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New York Bakers Use Online Tactics To Embarrass Employers

Jesse Eisenberg and Megan Fox love the food, but staff can't make ends meet
Workers at the Amy's Bread bakery in New York have gone public about their organising, following a march on Monday. They have demanded a living wage, affordable healthcare and respect at work, but they are fighting for these demands outside of traditional union structures. Rather than seek union recognition, they are aiming to embarrass their employers into accepting their demands using the power of the internet.

Amy's Bread sell high quality organic "artisanal" baked goods for high prices, and the outlet is known to be a favourite of celebrities such as Megan Fox, Jesse Eisenberg, Meg Ryan and Whoopi Goldberg. But the people who make and prepare those goods don't take home enough pay to make ends meet, and nurse injuries caused by the company's lack of investment in their protection.

Ana Rico, an overnight cleaning worker at Amy's, has described how she's "in pain all the time", thanks to the company’s months-long failure to replace a machine for washing trays. Since the old machine broke down, she has scrubbed two hundred trays per night, in "really hot water", alongside  vacuuming and general cleaning duties. Unpaid overtime is common. Then "Every time that I get home, I have to take pills and use creams". On top of this, she can't afford proper medical treatment for the working injuries, because the company's insurance policy would cost "about half of my [pay] check". 'Obamacare' has clearly done nothing to help the likes of Ana.

A baker who spoke to Salon.com on the condition of anonymity, stated that:
"[...] the need to work quickly and move repeatedly between very hot ovens and very cold freezers (“without jackets”) has caused him to throw out his back and get frequent colds. He said the smoke from cleaning burned dough out of ovens “causes my eyes to burn. And they frequently get very red, and my nose bleeds as well. And I have a lot of pain in my throat as well, and I have muscle pains as well, and especially pain in my hands and wrist.” Because the company wouldn’t buy proof boxes for the bread to rise in, charged the baker, “In order to produce the high-quality bread, we need to often turn off the ventilation in our area."
The campaign is being organised by the affected workers themselves, in conjunction with an advocacy group called Brandworkers. Founded in 2007 by Industrial Workers of the World member Daniel Gross, the New York-based movement aims to train food production workers in the use of social media and other tools to embarrass employers into compliance with the law and improvement of working conditions.

To that end, the amysbread.brandworkers.org website is asking people to read personal quotes of publicly named Amy's Bread workers, sign up to support their campaign, and their story on Facebook/Twitter using #WhoMakesAmysBread.
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