by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
Bakery Workers Win Their Union Back
A handful of New York City workers went head-to-head with the Hot & Crusty bakery and won, the Village Voice reports:
In one of the most remarkable underdog stories in recent labor history, 23 low-wage restaurant workers at a Hot and Crusty Bakery location on the Upper East Side have won a surprising victory.
The bakery's owners closed it August 31 after the workers successfully formed a union, but the workers fought back, briefly taking over the bakery on its last day and maintaining a 24-hour picket and street cafe through the following week.
Saturday, it was announced that new owners had taken over the bakery, and had signed binding promises to reopen the bakery within 15 days, rehire its workers, recognize their union, and institute a hiring hall, giving the workers control over the hire of new employees.
Hot & Crusty closed down the shop at 63rd and 2nd Ave in Manhattan after a super-majority of its 23 employees voted to unionize.
The victory is all the more remarkable because most of the Hot & Crusty workers are undocumented. The workers prevailed despite management threats to use their immigration status against them.
No one was expecting a tiny handful of mostly undocumented workers to win such concessions from a powerful ownership team led by Mark Samson, a managing partner at the private equity firm Praesidian Capital. Workers say management used their immigration status to threaten them, and spent more than $500,000 on a union-busting consultant and lawyers.
"It's historic. It's pretty much unprecedented," said Nastaran Mohit, an organizer at the Laundry Workers Center, which helped train and support the bakery workers. "The depth of support really helped, but the other thing that made the difference was the willingness of the workers to escalate."
The Laundry Workers Center was instrumental in bringing about the original vote to unionize. The bakery workers also had the support of allies including SEIU 32BJ, student groups, and Occupy Wall Street.
[Photo credit: SashaMD, Creative Commons.]