Bronx Residents Launch Citywide Boycott of FreshDirect

 Recently, I reported on the $129-million handout being granted to FreshDirect, a New York City grocery delivery service with lousy working conditions and little respect for the neighborhood where it plans to build its new facilities. 

FreshDirect, which mainly delivers to affluent neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, advertises fresh and local groceries, ready-made meals, and other attractive options to busy, middle-class urban consumers. But its delivery drivers and warehouse workers make less than $9 an hour, and the company, co-founded and headed by a former investment banker, Jason Ackerman, has no plans to deliver its products to the South Bronx community where it wants to build its 500,000-square-foot taxpayer-funded facility. New York City Public Advocate Bill deBlasio recently used the firm as an example in arguing that the city should require a stricter code of conduct for companies that receive public assistance. Currently, he wrote, “we essentially end up subsidizing some owners of big businesses to mistreat workers, keep profits for themselves and suppress fair bargaining.”

FreshDirect's workers make only $8.50 an hour for refrigerated warehouse labor; drivers make $8 and any tips they get. The company has fiercely fought any attempts by the workers to join a union--Sandy Pope, president of Teamsters Local 805, told AlterNet that they suspect the company even called in an ICE audit to scare off workers who were undocumented and break up the union drive. What's more, the company doesn't deliver to the South Bronx neighborhood it plans to occupy, and doesn't accept the SNAP and WIC food assistance benefits that many in that neighborhood need in order to survive. 

Well, Bronx residents have had enough and are calling for a full-scale, citywide boycott of the company. Activists with Friends of Brook Park and other South Bronx community members will hold a press conference at 4:30 PM today in Verdi Square Park, Manhattan, to discuss their reasons for calling on residents not to use the service. From their release: 

The company, by its own analysis, is able to stay and expand in its current Long Island City location, which would be less expensive than moving to the Bronx. The move to the South Bronx would entail building next to a waste transfer station and on land documented with evidence of a Native American settlement and burial ground. New Yorkers are dismayed that city, state and borough leaders would subsidize FreshDirect’s loud, polluting and excessively idling diesel trucks that overburden New York City streets, particularly given the company’s refusal to pay living wages and its history of unfair labor practice claims.

 Mychal Johnson, a Bronx community board member and one of the leaders of the boycott, told AlterNet last month, "“Enough is enough, that's why we're standing up.” 

Check out for more information.

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at March 21, 2012, 3:16am

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