A labor protest briefly targeted a neighborhood grocery store Sunday afternoon.
As part of International Worker’s Day, local community organization Make the Road New York organized a march from their Bushwick office on Grove Street to the storefront of Sea Town Fish and Meat Market at 328 Linden.
The protesters claim the market owes more than $600 in back wages and overtime to former worker Trevisio Araplua.
Management at Sea Town declined to comment. A Make the Road representative also said the market has not yet responded to the allegations.
Some four-dozen people paraded through the streets with banners, homemade signs, matching T-shirts, and waving flags. A few led the chants with bullhorns. A large portion of the activists carried makeshift drums and other instruments of disruption to make their voices heard on a sunny and otherwise calm Sunday.
Araplua himself was not in attendance — “he couldn’t make it this morning,” said Amy Carroll, Make the Road’s Legal Director. The worker’s statement, read over megaphone by others first in Spanish and then in English, described 10-hour work days for six days a week. Allegations stemmed mostly from a large amount of money owed to him, claiming he was paid less than the legal minimum wage.
Describing the day of December 8, 2010, the statement read: “that same afternoon, they called me to unload a truck. Another worker didn’t load the boxes well on the hand truck and they fell. Some of those boxes fell on my chest and I fell to the floor.” Araplua said an ambulance took him for treatment later after he fell down on the job. When he returned to work the following week, he wrote, there was another man in his place.
A trio of workers unloaded a produce truck as the crowd chanted. None of the workers, who wished to remain unidentified for job security reasons, had had a problem with the market, they said. They laughed as they worked and mimicked the protest’s chants with smiles.
The protest lasted for twenty minutes in front of the market, and marched back down Myrtle Avenue, then back up Grove Street. It was part of a trio of protests throughout the city organized by Make The Road New York to highlight the passing of legislation pushed by the group.
On April 9, the Wage Theft Prevention Act went into effect. The law quadruples penalties for companies paying workers less than minimum wage.
"Today, with 12,600 dues-paying members, MRNY is a unique amalgam of worker center, legal clinic, citizenship school, mutual aid society, policy shop, protest factory and church. Its four offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island are an egalitarian oasis for members, who gather there for conversation and classes..."