Dozens of workers, elected officials and residents protested outside Tom Cat Bakery, New York’s oldest artisanal bakery, after it threatened mass firings of dozens of immigrant workers following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
At least 30 employees said they received a letter from the bakery’s officials saying they had 10 days to provide proof of legal immigration status in the U.S. and would be fired if they failed to do so.
The bakery also said it was under investigation by the U.S. government for possible hiring of undocumented immigrants. Many of the immigrant workers are members of the pro-workers non-profit organization Brandworkers which has been organizing in support of their cause.
“We work hard, pay taxes and have given so much to make Tom Cat into a hugely successful company,” Sabino Milian, a worker at the factory and member of Brandworkers, said in a press release by the group. “We refuse to be thrown away like the bakery's garbage, and we will advance forward together.”
The workers, many of whom have been working at the bakery for 10 years or more, carried signs that read, “Ni un paso atrás!” (“Not one step back”), “Luchamos para Nuestros Families” (“We Fight for Our Families”) and “#May1Strike.”
The workers at the protest Tuesday demanded that the bakery’s officials stand by their employees in the face of the Trump administration and its crackdown on immigrants. They also urged workers at other branches around the country, especially ones from marginalized groups, to support their struggle and put pressure on their common boss.
“We risked a lot to come to this country in order to make a better life for our kids,” immigrant worker and protester Librada Antigua said in the Brandworkers press release. “The Trump administration may want us to disappear, but I'm not leaving my children for anything. Our unity is our strength, and our commitment is to victory.”
Activists said that the company has a chance to push back against the investigation and be an example to other threatened companies on how to confront the Trump administration.
"Tom Cat has a golden opportunity to act responsibly and stand up to President Trump's harsh immigration policies,” said Haeyoung Yoon, director of strategic partnerships for the National Employment Law Project.
“The company can and should be a leader by doing all it can within the bounds of the law to protect its workers who have baked and delivered their bread and built their company."
President Donald Trump has vowed to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and has already reversed many policies that protected them.