How Jacobin and the Democratic Socialists of America aided the Teamsters’ betrayal of the Hunts Point market strike


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking to striking workers at the Bronx’s Hunts Point Produce Market in New York City on January 20, 2020. PHOTO/Twitter

Last weekend, the Teamsters union forced through a sell-out contract to end a six-day strike by 1,400 workers at the Hunts Point produce market in the Bronx in New York City. Workers who struck for a modest $1 per hour raise per year, were left with an average annual wage increase of 62 cents more for new hires and 40 cents for veteran workers over the next three years. Most of the wage increase, moreover, is offset by reductions in their health care benefits.

The deal was passed in a snap ratification vote engineered by the Teamsters who told workers to vote on a three-year deal that they did not see or have a chance to discuss. Workers were not even allowed to keep the single-page “highlights” distributed by Teamsters officials. The Teamsters union, which has over $419 million in assets according to its 2019 Labor Department filing, did not pay a dime in strike benefits to Hunts Point workers. Facing economic hardship and knowing full well that the union would not fight for any better contract terms, the workers voted to end the strike and get back to work.

The strike itself was an initial expression of the immense radicalization of the working class amidst the homicidal response by the ruling class to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the danger of dictatorship and war. Set in the center of international finance capital and at one of the largest food produce markets in the world, the strike immediately provoked enormous alarm within the ruling class. After the strike was announced in a press conference that prominently featured Democratic Party officials, the Democrats showed their real face when the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio sent riot cops from the New York Police Department on January 18 to ensure that scabs could enter the market and operations be continued. Several workers were arrested.

The major concern of Local 202 President Daniel Kane Jr., the Teamsters bureaucracy and the Democratic Party was to keep the strike contained and to shut it down before it became a rallying point for a counter-offensive of the working class throughout the city against the criminal response of the corporate and political establishment to the pandemic.

Of the 3,000 workers at the market, only 1,400 were called out on strike, while the United Food and Commercial Workers union kept its members working in the fish and meat markets. No appeals were made to other sections of workers even though the eyes of millions of workers throughout New York City, the US and internationally were set on the strike.

However, the union would not have been able to push through this betrayal without the assistance from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and especially Democratic Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Throughout the strike, Jacobin, which is closely associated with the DSA, effectively functioned as the press agency for the Teamsters, promoting the illusion that the Teamsters union and the Democrats were standing on the sides of the workers.

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