A group of Queens bakery workers who will be laid off after an immigration audit plan to protest the decision tomorrow — including asking others to forgo selling or eating bread as a statement for immigrant rights in a “Day Without Bread.”
In March, longtime Long Island City business Tom Cat Bakery told more than 30 of its veteran employees that they had been flagged by the Department of Homeland Security for not having legal immigration papers. They either had to show papers, or get fired within ten days. The workers got a little bit more time to gather documents, but according to the Daily News, most of them will get fired on Friday.
The employees and activists will be outside the 43-05 10th Street bakery protesting at 6 a.m tomorrow. They are also asking restaurants, bakeries, and diners across the city to go a “Day Without Bread” by not selling or eating bread, a way “to protest the Trump administration’s inhumane clapdown on immigrants,” according to a statement.
Sussman brothers Middle Eastern restaurant Samesa will be donating 50 cents of every bread item sale on Friday to a relief fund for the workers, and Harvest & Ravel Catering will be donating a portion of sandwich sales as well. Sanctuary restaurant Colors will forgo bread sales all together. Yemenese bodegas, which closed earlier this year as an immigration ban protest, will also be participating in the protest.
Immigration has been a hot topic since Donald Trump won the presidency, and because restaurants are thought to be the second-largest employer of immigrants in the United States, the industry has been engaged in the topic with actions like the sanctuary restaurant movement. However, the Daily News notes that the immigration audit on Tom Cat Bakery happened in January under the Obama administration.
Not all the employees will be fired on Friday. The paper notes that 11 staffers were able to provide valid paperwork. Additionally, a union struck a deal with the bakery that gives remaining staffers an extension of six months of unpaid leave to obtain legal documents. If they still do not have papers, the deal includes severance package of one week’s pay for every year of service, 90 days of health care, and permission to cash out remaining holidays. Only one staffer took this deal, and 18 others decided to fight for more protections and compensation.
Still, the protest has received widespread support, including from elected officials like Public Advocate Tish James and Comptroller Scott Stringer. Most of the workers have worked at the artisanal bakery for more than a decade.