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Workers win: Hot and Crusty agrees with union, reopens restaurant

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 9/27/2012, 2:15 p.m.

Just over a week ago, a campaign against an Upper East Side restaurant ended with labor as the victor.

The Hot and Crusty establishment at 1201 Second Ave. closed its doors amid worker organization, which resulted in the loss of 23 jobs. Both sides eventually agreed to reopen the store, rehire the terminated workers and continue negotiations for a new deal with the newly formed independent union, the Hot and Crusty Workers Association.

Public protests against the closure involved workers and supporters, who claimed the closure was a direct attack on the new union, and they even got members of Occupy Wall Street to join them in protesting. There were six arrests during protests in late August, which included daily picketing and the passing out of leaflets to other members of the Upper East Side community.

Lawyers representing new ownership of Hot and Crusty contacted the union leaders to put an end to the labor dispute.

The Hot and Crusty Workers Association, represented by Eisner and Mirer PC, said workers would return to the shop by this week and that the employer had commenced negotiating with the union toward a collective bargaining agreement recently. Also, the union announced that Hot and Crusty conceded to the establishment of a hiring hall, and the union will have exclusive control over hiring. Lawyers representing Hot and Crusty also agreed to request that all charges be dropped against the six individuals who were arrested while "occupying" the shop as part of the protest.

Mahoma Lopez, a campaign leader who's worked at Hot and Crusty for over seven years, called this a major victory for immigrant workers during a news conference.

"This is a victory for all immigrant workers," said Lopez. "We did this together, and this wouldn't have been possible without the community support. When workers come together, anything is possible. The union gives us power."

And workers have promised to continue the pressure. They, along with Occupy Wall Street supporters, community members and labor unions, have maintained that they will continue to picket daily until the store is reopened and all terminated workers are officially rehired.

Workers gave credit to the Laundry Workers Center labor organization for its help with the campaign, along with organizational and training support. Laundry Workers Center founder Rosanna Rodriguez spoke about the importance of a union at the news conference two weeks ago.

"Our goal at the Laundry Workers Center is to improve the working-class socioeconomic condition, and this is a perfect example that when we organize workers and the community around common principles, we have real victories," said Rodriguez. "As an immigrant woman, I am very proud of this achievement."

At the news conference, members of TWU Local 100, SEIU 32 BJ, Workers United and DC 37 were present in their show of solidarity with the Hot and Crusty workers.