Errol Louis makes a strong point today in the NY Daily News about the disgraceful closing of the Stella D'oro factory in the Bronx-investment capitol firms shouldn't be allowed to violate the country's labor laws with impunity-while destroying a local business: "Hoping for a miracle, workers from the Bronx-based Stella D'Oro bakery will hold a 5 p.m. rally tomorrow at the Broad St. headquarters of Goldman Sachs in a last-ditch effort to save nearly 150 badly needed jobs. Early next month the company will lay off its entire workforce, with plans to sell the business to the North Carolina-based firm Lance, Inc. Then the plan is to move the factory - lock, stock and barrel - to Ohio. The plight of the Bronx workers illustrates what has gone wrong with our economy - and what we must do to fix it."
What did ownership-a private equity firm named Brynwood Partners-do? "...Brynwood demanded 20% wage cuts from its employees. The company claimed it needed the cuts to survive, but refused to open its books to prove it. So, 136 members of Local 50 went on strike, living on a $100-per-week union stipend for nearly a year. In June, the National Labor Relations Board found that Brynwood had illegally refused to disclose its economic situation to the union. The workers were ordered reinstated with two months' back pay. Upon losing the case, the Greenwich number-crunchers announced they would sell the firm."
And move it lock stock and barrel to-Ohio: "The problem is not just that a bunch of profit-hungry money men can squeeze a viable company for every last penny. The problem is that our labor laws damn near encourage such behavior by imposing no real penalties. Brynwood, which callously broke the law by provoking the strike, should be heavily fined. And the company's decision to sell - an act of retaliation against the strikers - may constitute yet another violation of law. The NLRB, which is currently considering the retaliation charge, can and should order a halt to the factory closing."
This should provoke outrage across the board in NYC: "Beyond that, New York's civic, business, political and labor leaders need to stand with the Stella D'Oro workers. Every union in town should be sending a delegation to tomorrow's demonstration. The rally will begin at Goldman Sachs because the investment company - the beneficiary of a $12 billion taxpayer bailout - owns a major share in Lance, Inc., the nonunion snack-food company expected to purchase Stella D'Oro and transfer operations to Ohio. Goldman Sachs can put the kibosh on the pending closing of the Stella D'Oro plant."
And the leader of the protest should be (don't hold your breathe) Mike Bloomberg-the guy who's flooding the airwaves with hot air about five borough economic plans and saving the city's middle class. The fact of the matter is, that the honchos at Goldman are Bloomberg's peeps, and the suspicion here is that his case of lockjaw devolves from that fact, and that fact alone.
The economy is in a meltdown and unemployment is at a record high-and the Bloomberg administration shares the blame for these conditions. Is it too much to ask of the city's richest man that he, at least, stand in solidarity against predators from his own cohort? Or, heaven forfend, actually try intervening to prevent this corporate outrage?
Bloomberg claims that he should be re-elected because he stands above special interests. His aloof response so far to Stella D'Oro belies that claim. When push comes to shove, Mike Bloomberg stands with his classmates-and against the interests of the city's workers.