posted 2012-09-01 00:30:33

Hot & Crusty Employees Protest Poor Treatment

By John Bolger, additional reporting and photographs by Jenady Garshofsky

Hot & Crusty employees and Occupy Wall Street members protested poor wages and maltreatment from the bakery’s employers Friday afternoon alleging that the store’s owners were closing the store and reopening under a different brand in a classic act of union busting.  As employees picketed outside the store on Second Avenue and 63rd Street, Occupy Wall Street protesters took to the inside of the store, effectively shutting down business and transforming the store into a den of civil disobedience on its last open day.  Police later arrested six protesters.

Protesters inside the store rearranged the chairs in a circle and covered the walls in anti-Hot & Crusty signs as well as covered the bakery’s security cameras with green tape.  The bakery’s awning and storefront windows were also obscured by signs decrying the maltreatment of employees by chain owner Mark Samson.  “This store belongs to the workers,” one sign on the door read.  According to protesters, the occupation began around 2 p.m.

“This is a big protest, the company is shutting down the place,” said Mahoma Lopez, a seven-year employee at the bakery, “they are finding excuses, they don’t want to recognize the union.”

Just before 5 p.m., as the protesters were discussing their next move, a plain-clothed police officer with a bicycle revealed his identity inside the store and instructed the protesters that they must leave if they were not buying anything.  He then took a sign from the wall and handed it to a non-protesting employee behind the counter, encouraging him to remove the remaining signs.  Moments later four uniformed officers entered the store as the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, an Occupy Wall Street affiliated marching band, began to play and the picketers outside erupted in chant.  Shortly later, two protesters were arrested in front of the store.

A plain-clothed lieutenant from the 19th precinct, wearing a red shirt that read “United States of America -- Freedom -- Tradition and Pride” entered the store and attempted to talk the protesters into leaving.  Eventually he sought the store’s manager, Miguel Zumba, who told the lieutenant that he would press charges against the protesters.

“Tomorrow, whatever, but today I want to shut the store down,” Zumba said to the protesters as he emerged from the back of the store with the lieutenant.  The lights to the store were shut off as the protesters refused to comply with the police order and additional NYPD officers were called.

At around 5:20 p.m. an NYPD captain arrived as well as about 15 additional officers from the Patrol Borough Manhattan North (PBMN) and Manhattan North Task Force (MNTF).  The captain entered the store and tried to convince the protesters to leave, telling them that they should rearrange to protest the following day.

Roughly ten minutes later, officers from the PBMN entered the store and blocked the entrance as the three remaining protesters inside were arrested and brought to the MNTF van parked on 63rd Street, which took the protesters to the 19th precinct for processing.

“Once again the NYPD does its job, protecting the rich,” said a protester outside the store as the van drove off.  “Give them a hand,” he said as he engaged in mock applause.

An additional protester was arrested inside the store when it was discovered she was using the bathroom during the final confrontation inside.

“I think it’s the worst thing he did because the only people the police had to come and arrest was the owner,” Lopez said, discussing Zumba’s decision to press charges, “because they have many violations.  The parties of the company are the real criminals.”

Hours later at night, the Occupy Wall Street “Illuminator,” a van-mounted projector which makes nightly tours, was stationed across the street from the bakery projecting anti-Samson images above the padlocked storefront.  “Union busting is disgusting,” read one image.  Another image read “Max Samson -- Shame! Shame! Shame!”

Still outside the store well after dusk, Lopez said he and his coworkers intended to stay long into the night and return again the following day to picket.

“This shop is here already, why is he going to reopen with a new name?” Lopez said, “Always they [the owners] say, you don’t like it … you are free to leave.”