Why does Di Blasio’s NYPD Harass Workers?
An Appeal to Union Members
Nosotros los Pobres doesn’t believe in mayors, politicians or elections. But obviously, unions in New York City do, because they spent a lot of time and money supporting Bill Di Blasio. Di Blasio is in office because of the hard work and support of unions, workers centers, and communities of workers, immigrants and people of color. He has an obligation to those groups, and if they don’t take advantage of the obligation in order to get the policies they want, what was all the work for?
So we ask our sisters and brothers at SEIU, at DC 37, at La Fuente, at Make the Road by Walking, at all the unions and workers centers in New York; why does Di Blasio’s police force act just like Michael Bloomberg’s police force when it comes to disrespecting the rights of working people?
Routine Harassment by the 34th Precinct
For the last 6 months, we have been supporting a picket on Dyckman Street, organized by the Laundry Workers’ Center. Every Monday, LWC members, members of Nosotros los Pobres and others gather to support Moraima Ortiz, who was fired from Kenny Bakery after years of sub-minimum wage work, physical and verbal harassment, and wage theft. It’s a clear cut case, and the LWC organizers have asked all participants to abide by the laws regarding picketing; the only people breaking the laws the government has laid down are the wage thieves and exploiters inside the establishment.
Nevertheless, from the very first week, we’ve had the constant accompaniment of the officers of the 34th Precinct. At best, there has been a “community liason” officer standing next to the picketers, or talking with them in the middle of the sidewalk, taking them away from the work at hand and helping to intimidate the community into non-participation. At worst, though, the regular cops of the precinct show up and take up an hour of the organizers’ time with laws and regulations that don’t exist or have nothing to do with the police. One time, they arrive and tell us we can’t have the photo of the owner, Iris Minaya, on our signs, and we have to put them away—an issue that a first year law student can tell you is a civil matter; the police have no authority to make such a demand. Another time, they tell a picketer he is not allowed to play his little toy drum on a public street; a subway musician could tell them that you’re allowed to play any instrument you want on the streets of New York City as long as it’s not amplified. At the last picket, the police actually arrived and informed the picketers that they had to stand 1500 feet away from any place of business, a law that the officer in question had clearly made up off the top of his head. And worst of all, a group of female picketers were aggressively dispersed by police on, of all days, International Women’s Day.
What was all the campaign work for?
The effect of all this harassment, of course, is to discourage a community that is already heavily subject to police intimidation from supporting the action against Kenny Bakery. And the source? There are rumors that the owner of Kenny has a relative in the precinct; on the other hand, though, the police may simply be doing the job they’ve always done of suppressing workers and supporting bosses. We don’t expect anything else from them. But again, we ask our sisters and brothers in the city’s unions: what was all the phone banking, all the money, all the outreach on the street and endorsements for, if at the end of the day the city treats workers the same way it’s always treated them? If you elected this mayor, you need to use the debt he has with you to improve the lives of working people in this city, and if he won’t make changes on his own he needs to be pressured and forced. Again, we don’t believe much in mayors; but we assume that you gave Di Blasio so much support because you thought it would give you a hand in determining the direction the city takes. Prove us wrong, for once; if you are able to make a difference in the city’s policies, now is the time; otherwise, working people will have to suppose, when you call them or talk to them at work asking them to vote for one candidate or another, that really whoever is elected, what happens in their every day lives won’t change one bit.
Nosotros los Pobres appeals to New York’s union members. Call the Mayor’s Office at 311, and the 34th Precinct at 212-927-9711; tell them your union affiliation, and demand that they put an end to the harassment of the Laundry Workers’ Center picket on Dyckman Street.
Mayor’s Office: 311
34th Precinct: 212-927-9711