Sweet ‘N Low Workers Rally to Save Jobs in Brooklyn
Hundreds of workers who make Sweet ‘N Low and Sugar in the Raw rallied this week to fight the closure of their Brooklyn factory.
Members of UFCW Local 2013, they told the company “Hell No, Sweet ‘N Low!”
Cumberland Packing employs 320 union members in the Fort Greene neighborhood and across the street inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
They have made sweeteners in Brooklyn since World War II, but now the company says it wants to outsource the production and leave the blue-collar workers who built the company out in the cold.
Flanked by elected officials, Local 2013 President Mark Carotenuto expressed outrage at the rally at how the family-owned company treated its long-time workers, most of whom are black and Latino.
“These are people who have given a lifetime of labor to this company,” Carotenuto said. “The company said they were family. This isn’t how you treat family.”
Public Advocate Letitia James said the sudden announcement of the closure smelled like a real-estate deal cooked up for the overheating Brooklyn housing market.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams denounced the deal, as did City Council Members Stephen Levin and Daneek Miller.
And City Council Member Laurie Cumbo said there was no way that local elected officials would stand by and let the company sell out its workforce to build yet another condominium tower.
The New York City Central Labor Council, RWDSU Locals 338, 1102, and UFCW Local 1500 all rallied in support, along with the Working Families Party and ALIGN.
Cumberland isn’t hurting. In fact, the company has said it is profitable. Management just wants to boost profits by shipping the work elsewhere.
Cumberland never approached the union to say it was considering leaving Brooklyn, or asked to explore options with the city and state to modernize and upgrade its plant.
Jahan Khan, a member of the bargaining committee that’s been working hard to negotiate with Cumberland since September, told the crowd that he lives a block away from the factory. He’s 34 years old and supports three kids on his wage.
“I want to stay and raise my family in Brooklyn,” Khan said. “But what kind of chance will I have if the good jobs disappear?”
Carotenuto said the fight is just beginning. Hundreds of members crowded a local church the next day to plan the next steps together.
“We are aggressively pursuing every avenue possible to save these jobs,” he said.