Allies of immigrant workers alleged to be illegally employed at a Queens bakery picketed President Donald Trump’s Manhattan home Saturday, protesting the workers’ impending firing from one of New York City’s largest artisanal bread makers.
More than 100 activists and workers gathered across from Trump Tower, calling on Long Island City-based Tom Cat Bakery to halt its plans to fire about 31 workers identified in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security audit as lacking legal authorization to work in the United States.
Daniel Gross, founder and executive director of Brandworkers, an advocacy group behind the protest, said he wants the owner of Tom Cat, Tokyo-based giant Yamazaki Baking Co., to use its corporate muscle to more forcefully resist the federal government. He declined to be specific about what those steps might be.
“What we’re asking of Tom Cat is to be a gold-standard employer here,” he said. “And that means cooperating to the fullest — legally and morally — to make sure that their valued workforce is protected as possible.”
William Wachtel of Manhattan, the bakery’s lawyer, said the company’s hands are tied and said it plans to offer severance to any worker who can’t stay.
“We’re doing everything reasonably possible within the confines of the law to do what we can to help as many of these workers remain a part of the Tom Cat family,” he said. He noted that companies with employees who are legally unauthorized to work can face criminal and civil penalties.
The audit of the bakery, which serves eateries around the region, began in December under the Obama administration, according to Wachtel.
A Homeland Security representative did not immediately return a message seeking comment about Saturday’s rally, which attracted elected officials such as Letitia James, the city’s public advocate, and Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Baker Hector Solis, 45, of Brooklyn, who’s worked at Tom Cat for 12 years, said he doesn’t know how he and his wife will support their kids — an 18-year-old in college and an 8-year-old — if he can’t keep his job, which he says pays $17 an hour.
Solis, who has been outspoken about the workers’ plight, said he came over the border to the U.S. without a visa 22 years ago from Mexico City to get a better future for his family. Both his kids were born here.
“I had a heart attack, like two or three years ago,” he said. “If I lose my job I’m going to lose my insurance. Everything.”