Outside Tate’s Bake Shop on Long Island.
Photo: Alexandria Misch
Every 30 minutes, around 7,560 thin and crunchy biscuits pass through the hands of packers at Tate’s Bake Shop manufacturing facility in East Moriches on the south shore of Long Island. Catalina, a 42-year-old undocumented worker who asked me not to use her real name for fear of reprisals from her superiors, calls the cookie company’s line of products „the belt”. She says the oven can sometimes give off cookies that are too hot to handle, with only plastic gloves providing protection. When I ask her to describe her shifts, for which she is paid $ 15.50 an hour, she says the same word three times in Spanish: Laugh. Any slowdown by other employees can also lead to a backup, a dangerous situation and creating an environment where employees have to take care of themselves. „I’m not going to kill myself or burn my hands while another person is doing what they’re doing,” she tells me through a translator. „People who eat these cookies don’t know how difficult it is to make them.”
We’re in a mostly empty shop a mile from the factory. The Amalgamated Local 298 union is currently campaigning for 432 Tate workers to be organized, and Catalina believes it is too dangerous to speak to a journalist who one of their managers may see them. Reports have surfaced that the company threatens its undocumented workers with deportation if they get organized. Officially, a Tate’s spokesman tells me that the company „has never threatened employees with deportation and we never would,” and that Tate’s supports employees’ right to organize, but another employee, whom I will call Julio, says that management tries „There are people at Tate who say, ‘We’re going to vote on your behalf,” „explains Julio through a translator. „Persons authorized by the company.” Julio also tells me that management is watching „every step I take”, that he fears management has been singled out, and suggests that an hourly increase from $ 14.50 to $ 16 an hour in January would have been higher if he hadn’t supported the union, other employees posted gains of up to five dollars. „Just because a worker wants to organize, wants a representation,” he says, „doesn’t mean that a company should make life miserable.”
Tate started out as New York in 1970 Times once reportedKathleen King „started baking cookies at her marital status in Southampton.” She was 11. In the 1990s, King sold two-thirds of Kathleen’s Bake Shop, as it was called, to new partners. (In an e-mail, the author of this original report, Florence Fabricant, wrote that Kathleen has now given “a wonderful example” for decades with a “wonderful example.” Excellent local product . „She says the quality has been proven with her expansion.” But there is also a lesson, „warns Fabricant:” Never sell your personal name. „In the meantime, according to documents, a union surge has spread in Kathleen’s National Labor Relations Board filed. In a 15-page decision, the NLRB found that employees suffered verbal abuse, retaliation and other anti-union techniques. One employee, George Panatiotopoulos, alleged that King once told him, “You are a pathetic excuse for a person. Go back to work, you bastard. „
The union effort passed, but King eventually was fired from their new partners. In 2000, King quickly turned around and opened Tate’s. The new bakery was named after her father Richard „Tate” King. In particular, their employees were not represented by a union. The company quickly became known for its super-buttery, thin, chocolate chip cookies, and eventually received acclaim from celebrities as well Rachael Ray. In 2018 it was Tate’s bought for $ 527 million from Mondelēz International, the bakery giant that owns brands like Oreo and Chips Ahoy. King – who did not respond to multiple requests to speak for this story – left the store.
Mondelēz recently made headlines having announced plans to close two plants this summer, one in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and one in Atlanta, as a company considered „Changes to the further development of US biscuit production by concentrating on strategically located bakery locations.” However, Richard Nazzaro, president of Local 719 union, which has represented Nabisco workers in New Jersey since 1958, said he was still at the negotiating table to finalize a deal with Mondelēz for 2016 when the closings were announced. „Mondelēz was anti-union against steroids,” he says.
Now there is concern among some that a similar fate could occur for the Long Island Tate bakery and its workers if they vote for the organization, although there is no guarantee that the vote will take place. A first-year Tate employee, Efrain Villafane, a 64-year-old maintenance worker, tells me he’s happy with his hourly wage – he says it’s „about” $ 30 an hour – and he doesn’t have to pay any union fees to speak his name because he can always go to HR.
Anthony Miranti, who is organizing the current union push for Local 298, believes Tate’s is a „decent place” with room for improvement, with Mondelēz sales of $ 500 million and worldwide sales of the company of 25.9 billion US dollars. “I think the workers who make these products should be able to put their heads on their pillows at night knowing that their job is secure, that their family has the best coverage and that one day they will receive a pension have to retire. ”
Julio, Tate’s union-friendly worker, says he is encouraged to see the increased media attention and says consumer pressure can help. The current turmoil is also causing a headache for another member of the King family, Richard King, the brother of Kathleen King and the son of the original Richard „Tate” King, whose name is emblazoned on every green bag from the East Moriche’s complex. „It’s a personal attack,” he says, referring to articles such as a story by the title „Fuck you Tate and your Union-Busting Bake Shop” which pearled in the light of the first reports of deportation allegations. „It sucks,” says Richard, a second generation farmer who owns a church near the Tate factory, and says he has no stake in the company or a say in selling his family name to Mondelēz.
A few minutes before her shift starts at 3 p.m., Catalina gives me her own opinion on the union formation effort. „I’ve spoken to a lot of people who work in union businesses,” she says. „They say things are better.” So she adds, „Why not give it an opportunity?”
As she gets up to leave, she tells me that she studied in her home country to be a nurse and that she sometimes thinks about what it would have been like to spend her days looking after women and children . Now, however, it is time to get back to the „Belt”. „I’m so tired,” she says, „looking at Tate’s cookies.”