More than 30 undocumented immigrants who have been working at a Long Island City bakery, one for as long as 16 years, were fired Friday after a crackdown by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. NY1's Clodagh McGowan filed the following report.
After working for Tom Cat Bakery in Long Island City for 12 years, Hector Solis needs to find a new job.
"We work so hard. Me and my co-workers, we work so hard," said Solis.
Solis and 30 co-workers got letters from the bakery warning they needed to prove they were legally allowed to work in the U.S. An audit by the Department of Homeland Security had flagged paperwork the workers submitted when they were hired.
They had until Friday to provide the proper documents. When they could not, they were fired.
"It made me feel so angry and so sad at the same time," said Solis.
It is unclear whether the workplace audit was the result of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants or a random administrative action by Homeland Security. But the founder of the advocacy group Brandworkers says such enforcement is rare.
"This is the first work place audit of this kind in 11 years in the city of New York," said Daniel Gross, the founder of Brandworkers.
Tom Cat’s CEO sent workers a letter saying, "We know that all of you are understandably shocked and frustrated…Some of those affected have been dedicated employees of Tom Cat for many years."
He added, "While Tom Cat regrets losing valued members of our workforce, we must of course ensure that Tom Cat is in compliance with all applicable employment laws."
The workers, represented by Bakers Union Local 53, are getting a severance package that includes a week's pay for each year on the job. Workers who can submit proper documents within six months can return to work with seniority.
For Solis, it's little comfort.
"It made me feel like they slapped my face," said Solis.
The fight is far from over for the former Tom Cat Bakery workers. A Brandworkers representative confirms they will take part in a larger strike and rally planned for May 1 to mark International Workers Day. Their hope is to send a clear message to the Trump administration that immigrant workers are a valuable part of our society.