New York, NY—Ending a 2-month long public campaign to protest an August 31st closure of the 63rd street Hot and Crusty, workers announced today that they have come to a final agreement with the new ownership of the store, following several weeks of negotiations with investors Anthony Illuzzi and David Kay. Workers will return to the job in as little as three weeks under a new collective bargaining agreement that provides for a union hiring hall, paid vacation and sick time, wage increases, seniority and grievance and arbitration procedures. Widely regarded as a precedent-setting contract for the restaurant industry, The Hot and Crusty Workers Association enthusiastically welcomed news of the agreement.
Eugene Eisner of Eisner and Mirer P.C., the firm representing the Union, emphasized the historic nature of the agreement, saying “this kind of agreement in virtually unheard of for low-wage foreign-born workers in the restaurant industry. These workers should be incredibly proud of their determination to stand up to the employers threats not to reopen, and to have ultimately achieved all of their demands.”
Workers received a tremendous outpouring of support over the course of the 55-day picket, including thousands of signatures of support from the Upper East Side community, daily visits from Hunter College faculty and students, messages of solidarity from around the country and letters of support from dozens of unions and labor organizations. Workers welcomed over 100 labor, community and Occupy Wall Street supporters to a solidarity rally on October 18th in support of the camapign. Rank-and-file workers from labor unions across industries—including TWU Local 100, UFCW Local 1500, UNITE HERE, AFSCME DC 37, CWA Local 1101, LIUNA Local 78, Utility Workers Local 1-2, PSC-CUNY, UFT, Workers United, ROC-NY and Jornaleros Unidos.
Mahoma Lopez, who has worked at Hot and Crusty for over 7 years, said: “the workers are feeling really excited about this news because this is more than just a contract for us. We are putting an example out there for other workers, and other immigrant workers, that anything is possible when you organize. We want others to take this victory to their own workplaces so we can make change in this country.”
Laundry Workers Center, who trained and supported the workers over an 11-month organizing campaign, applauded the victory, stating: “it has been demonstrated through this campaign that immigrant workers can affect concrete changes when they are trained to lead their own struggles. This is a great victory for the workers and we at Laundry Workers Center are eager to build on this momentum within our other campaigns”.
Hot and Crusty employees worked for years under unsafe conditions for sub-minimum wage and zero overtime, some employees working upwards of 70 hours a week. Verbal abuse and harassment were rampant in the workplace, spawning an organizing drive that went public on January 21, 2012. The workers won union recognition on May 23, certifying their own independent union, the Hot and Crusty Workers Association. The strike began on August 31, 2012, when the store’s previous owners announced they would close the shop in the wake of a successful union election — a move the Union alleged to be a retaliatory effort to avoid bargaining with the newly formed Hot & Crusty Workers Association.
A press conference will be held Monday, October 29 at 3:30PM at Hot and Crust, on the northwest corner of 63rd street and 2nd Avenue. Workers will also provide updates on the charges pending against the six Occupy Wall Street protestors who were arrested during the store occupation on August 31st.