Oakland’s DoBake Workers Refuse to Be Silenced by Silent Raid

For the low-wage undocumented workers of Oakland's DoBake industrial bakeries — some making $9.40 an hour after decades of strenuous labor for the company, producing goods for Trader Joe's, the Oakland Unified School District, Costco, Safeway, 7-11, and other clients — the impact of their sudden mass firing earlier this year was devastating. 

Especially hard hit were those who are elderly, disabled, the primary earner for their family, or, in one case, eight months pregnant.

A Brave Contingent Calls for Justice

The firing was disastrous for the 125 workers and their loved ones, but it has also proved infuriating, politicizing, and galvanizing.  Many have organized into a committee, and their aims include the broad vision of a moratorium on all "silent raids" nationwide.

At today's May Day march in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, this brave contingent will be risking further exposure in order to share their emerging struggle against the I-9 audit that ruined their livelihood, one of the latest in a wave sweeping the country. 

Pushing Back on Those Who Put Profit Before People

When DoBake facilitated the raid, perhaps they were eager to rid themselves of a troublesome element that could interfere with profits. Some workers who had toiled in the factory for 10, 15, or even 20 years were starting to ask for better wages and conditions.

On the subject of the I-9 audit, the union that was paid to represent the workers didn't make a peep: didn't even warn the workers that the firings were coming. When 50 workers pressed the BTCGM Local 125 reps on why they didn't at least call a meeting, the response was: "Each worker's situation is different."

In abrupt joblessness, the workers seem to have found a certain commonality. Many have also found the strength to take a stand: fighting back against the mass I-9 firings they call unjust and racist, and calling for papers for all (papeles para todos, ya!).

This Monday, April 29, 15 ex-DoBake workers were joined by 50 community members, including the Brass Liberation Orchestra, to stage their first public action, right outside the factory gates. 

This is only the beginning of what could become a protracted struggle for reinstatement, severance pay, and a broader statement against the "silent raids" that have escalated significantly in recent years.

Fighting a Bigger Fight through a Local Struggle

In 2012 The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) hit a record high of I-9 audits: more than 3,000, compared to 250 in 2007.  

Over the same time period, private prison companies have increasingly contracted with ICE to build immigrant detention facilities, a growth strategy the companies have specifically identified in reports to stockholders. 

In their local struggle, DoBake workers are joined by former workers of Berkeley Pacific Steel, similarly fired by the hundreds (possibly in retaliation, after their union successfully went on strike for better benefits).

Fights like the DoBake fight are about people's basic needs of jobs and dignity, but they are also about a larger movement around immigrant rights (or lack thereof) and hyper-exploitation in this country.

Below, in Spanish with an English translation, is the speech given by one of the DoBake ex-workers at Monday's press conference.

Speech from a Former DoBake Worker

Buenas tardes estoy aquí como trabajadora y representando en este día a mis compañeros de Dobake bakeries. Esta es una compañía que durante muchos años ha estado en el mercado del Área de la Bahía dedicada a la producción, empaque y distribución de diferentes tipos de pan que son parte del consumo diario para todas nuestras familias y distribuidos entre otros en el el Distrito Escolar de Oakland, cárceles, supermercados como Foodmax, Costco y Trader Joe's.

Dobake bakeries tiene un promedio de 200 trabajadores los cuales estamos sindicalizados conBCTGM local 125 desde el 2006. Este sindicato representa a trabajadores de Panaderías, Confiterías, Tabacaleras y Molineros. Lastimosamente el desempeño de los líderes de este sindicato ha dejado mucho que desear ya que no han hecho nada durante este tiempo por mejorar nuestra situación laboral en dobake de hecho a estas alturas estamos trabajando con un contrato que expiró desde noviembre del año 2012 y cuyas negociaciones han sido retrasadas con el pretexto que los dueños de la compañía no tienen tiempo para reunirse con los representantes nuestros y del sindicato. Para la firma de este nuevo contrato Estamos exigiendo el pago de salarios mas justos mejores prestaciones y condiciones de trabajo. La compañía ha hecho oídos sordos a nuestros reclamos por mejoras laborales y en su lugar ha empezado a implementar una "supuesta" inspección federal, I-9, mejor conocida como Redadas Silenciosas. Es por eso que el día de hoy, nosotros los trabajadores de Dobake Bakeries estamos aquí para denunciar y dar testimonio de las prácticas llevadas a cabo en contra de nosotros!

Dicha panadería se ha dado a la tarea desde enero de este año de despedir a sus trabajadores en grupos pequeños de 5 a 10 personas semanalmente tomando como justificación una supuesta auditoría de autoridades federales llevada a cabo en 2010 y luego en este ano la implementacion y uso del I-verify y el I-9, desatando con esto,la angustia y preocupación de alrededor de 125 trabajadores que estamos siendo afectados por esta práctica y que somos el sosten de nuestras familias. Curiosamente, la implementación de esta "supuesta" redada la están llevando a cabo de manera estratégica ya que los primeros en ser despedidos son los "empleados generales" de tal manera que los empleados clave como los encargados de línea o los especialistas los han mantenido hasta ahora para que entrenen a los nuevos trabajadores que ocuparán sus posiciones para eventualmente deshacerse de cada uno de nosotros, los 125 trabajadores que estamos en la lista negra.

Como parte de la fuerza laboral de este pais es difícil explicarnos cómo si durante tantos años hemos ayudado a sostener su economía, por qué ahora esas mismas compañías que durante todo este tiempo nos han usado para obtener ganancias millonarias, pagándonos sueldos bajos, se han aprovechado de nuestro estatus legal y nos han vendido. Hoy en este momento, momentos de cambio para este pais, implementan herramientas como el I-9 o el E-Verify para dejar a nuestrasfamilias sin el principal medio de ingresos para su sostén. Esto es injusto! No cabe duda que nuestra comunidad está siendo vigilada y atacada con este tipo de leyes anti inmigrantes.  De todos es conocido que el gobierno de Barack Obama ha roto el récord de deportaciones en EU!!!

Es por eso que hoy estamos aquí para dar a conocer a la comunidad lo que a puertas cerradas está pasando y para exigir que dejen de ser implementadas el E-Verify y el I-9 porque como seres humanos atentan contra nuestra dignidad y el justo derecho que todos tenemos de ganarnos el pan de cada día.

Denunciamos la Injusticia que se está haciendo con nosotros y con muchas otras familias!!!

Rechazamos políticas anti inmigrantes como son el E-Verify, el I-9 y el S-COMM.

Invitamos a toda la comunidad a rechazar la implementación de estos programas que atentan contra la dignidad del ser humano y el derecho al trabajo. Como comunidad debemos estar unidos en la lucha por la legalización y el rechazo a la prácticas anti- inmigrantes poque recordemos que la unión hace la fuerza y solo unidos podemos hacer la diferencia!

PAPELES PARA TODOS!

======================

Good afternoon. I am here today as a worker and representative of my compañeros at Dobake bakeries. This is a company that for many years has been in the bay area market, dedicated to the production, packaging and distribution of different kinds of bread that are part of the daily consumption for all our families as well as distributed to others in the Oakland School District, prisons, and supermarkets like Foodmax, Costco and Trader Joe’s.

DoBake Bakeries has an average of 200 workers who have been unionized with BCTGM local 125 since 2006. This union represents bakery workers, confectionery workers, tobacco workers and grain millers. Unfortunately the performance of the union leadership has fallen short since they have done nothing during this time to improve our employment situation at DoBake, when in fact at this point we have been working with a contract that has been expired since November 2012 and negotiations have been delayed on the pretext that the company’s owners don’t have time to meet with us or our union representatives.

By signing this new contract we are demanding fairer wages, better benefits and better working conditions. The company has turned a deaf ear to our demands for better working conditions and instead has begun implementing a “supposed” federal I-9 inspection, better known as a silent raid. This is why on this day, we, the workers of DoBake Bakeries are here to denounce and give testimony to the practices carried out against us!

Since January of this year the bakery has been given the task of firing workers in small groups of 5 to 10 people each week, using as justification a supposed federal audit conducted in 2010 and then in this year, the implementation and use of E-Verify and I-9, which has triggered the anxiety and concern of around 125 workers who have been affected by this practice and who are the main support of their families. Interestingly, the implementation of this "supposed" raid is being conducted strategically, in which the first to be fired are the "general employees" so that key employees and line managers or specialists have been maintained up to now in order to train new workers to take up their positions in order to eventually get rid of each one of us, the 125 workers who are on the blacklist.

As part of the workforce in this country is difficult to explain to us how if for so many years we have helped to sustain its economy, why now are those same companies that during all this time have used us to make millions in profits by paying us low wages, have taken advantage of our legal status and have sold us. Today in this moment, a moment of change in this country, they implement tools like I-9 or E-Verify to leave our family without main source of income. This is an injustice! There is no doubt that our community is being scrutinized and attacked with these kinds of anti-immigration laws. We all know that the government of Barack Obama has broken the record for deportations in the US!!!

This is why we are here today to inform the community of what is going on behind closed doors and to demand an end to the implementation of E-Verify and I-9 because they threaten our dignity and basic rights that we all have as human beings to earn our daily bread.

We denounce the injustice being to us and many other families!!!

Reject anti-immigrant policies such as E-Verify, I-9 and S-COMM.

We invite the entire community to reject the implementation of these programs that threaten the dignity of our our humanity and our right to work. As a community we must be united in the fight for legalization and the rejection of anti-immigrant practices because we must remember that unity is strength and only united can we make a difference!

PAPERS FOR ALL!

Join the DoBake Ex-Workers at Today's Rally in Oakland starting at 3pm 

Guest Author: 
La Coalición de Dignidad y Resistencia

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