A Queens bakery has told 31 of its employees that it must procure valid working papers by Tuesday, March 28, or be fired. Tom Cat Bakery is responding to an audit by the Department of Homeland Security, which flagged 31 employees, demanding documentation proving they are legally allowed to work in the United States, NY1 reports.
In response, the workers have teamed up with Brandworkers, a nonprofit “bringing local food production workers together for good jobs and a sustainable food system,” to fight back. The group led a rally in front of the bakery this week, demanding either that Tom Cat sponsor the longtime employees to work there, or to pay severance. Many of these workers have been at the 30-year-old company for as long as 24 years.
Brandworkers has also organized a media blitz, joining forces with other movements around this cause. Another rally was set for tomorrow, but has been postponed. Brandworkers organizer Cynthia Chavez declined to say why, but seemed to indicate they were working through new information from Tom Cat. She also declined to confirm if any of the employees are able to get the proper documentation.
It is not known if the audit is routine or the result of President Donald Trump’s stronger stance on undocumented workers. There is a growing movement nationwide, however, in response to these new policies, of “sanctuary restaurants,” or food businesses that pledge to protect its employees and customers regardless of immigration status.
Eater has reached out to Tom Cat’s legal representation for comment and has yet to hear back.