Rafael Polanco might have to tell his two children that this Christmas will come without presents.
The East Elmhurst resident, along with 49 other union workers, all lost their jobs on Dec. 10 when the Trade Fair Supermarket, on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, closed its doors abruptly without giving the workers any notice.
The workers claimed they turned up on Tuesday morning and management told them the store had been sold and they had to go home because they no longer had jobs.
“They didn’t give us an explanation. They didn’t give us a number to call. They didn’t say anything about the new owner. No one gave us an explanation,” said Polanco, who has been a deli worker at Trade Fair for 14 years. “They treat their workers like animals. We are human, they should give us explanations.
Members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Local 342 UFCW, unions representing the Trade Fair workers, gathered with local elected officials and community members in front of the supermarket on Dec. 13 to protest Trade Fair’s actions and to call on the new owner, Amana Key Food LLC, to hire the terminated workers.
According to the unions, Trade Fair’s closing and termination of the worker violates the collective bargaining agreements held with the owner, which demands the company give the union and workers two weeks notice of either sale or closure.
Amana Key Food LLC filed an application or a liquor license with the State Liquor Authority for the site on November 14, showing the sale has been in the works for more than a month, according to the unions.
In March, meat department workers in all nine Queens Trade Fair locations went on an Unfair Labor Practice strike fighting for a fair contract and against unfair labor practices. During the strike the owner was accused of treating workers with disrespect and putting their live in danger with exits being blocked most of the time.
“For far too long he [Farid Jaber] has been a bad neighbor,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “This is a clear violation of his contractual obligation and labor law. He has betrayed his employees and the community of Jackson Heights.”
Last week’s termination happened just weeks before Christmas, leaving workers like Polanco looking for jobs and wondering where they will get money to give gifts to their kids.
“Us older people we understand the situation but the children don’t understand,” Polanco said.
According to a union representative, days after the rally Amana Key Food LLC handed out job applications to the terminated workers, but none have been hired yet.
Amana Key Food LLC could not be reached for comment and Trade Fair did not respond.