By Colleen Koperek
UPDATED March 25, 2021 with a message from Allie Rojas, a community organizer at La Comunidad:
On Tuesday, March 9 we delivered the petition with over 400 signatures to Hoff’s. We gave Vincent Fraturra a week (Tuesday, March 16) to respond to the workers requests to meet with them. We have yet to hear from Vincent. Workers have been blocked from the bakery’s Facebook page because they were leaving reviews along with their supporters. The workers are essentially being silenced and ignored. We are now planning to show up at his home — these workers refuse to continue to be silenced. We know that in numbers we are stronger and cannot be ignored. It’s the last weekend of Women’s History Month and in honor of that we ask the community to support these immigrant women workers.
The fired workers are asking Boston DSA members to show up to Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford on Saturday, March 27 at 10 am (specifically by the bus stop and Brookline Bank ATM) and march the short distance to Vincent Fraturra’s house. Supporters are encouraged to bring signs.
More information can be found here: https://bit.ly/2PrybnO
March might be Women’s History Month, but Boston DSA’s support for immigrant womxn is forever.
Former employees of Hoff’s Bakery in Malden, MA are realizing their collective power by joining with community organizers to ask their boss, Vincent Fraturra, why many workers were not requested to return after the initial COVID-19 shutdowns. “Nobody has wanted to give us details of why they did that to us when we needed them the most,” said a former employee.
“It’s very hard to help when the workers inside are intimidated against speaking out,” said one longtime Hoff’s employee. Some of the fired workers, all of whom are immigrant women, are joining with La Communidad, Justice at Work and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice to speak out and rally community support. The former bakery workers hope that these actions will show the current employees there is power in the collective. “Don’t turn your back on workers like us, because we are not the only ones experiencing this,” said another worker. Together they have spoken with Radio Jornalera, circulated a petition and created a GoFundMe for 12 of the unemployed workers.
In January 2020, many employees of Hoff’s Bakery were terminated from their positions and told to reapply through Masis Staffing Solutions, who had representatives from their Chelsea office already onsite to process the paperwork. “Suddenly, they tell you that you no longer work for the company. It feels disappointing. But at the same time I was happy because I knew that I would always have a job to continue helping my family. Next door there were the girls from the temp office who had been brought by Hoff’s to hire us as if nothing ever happened,” said a former employee.
The workers complied with these directions because “the schedule suited me and my family’s needs,” said one worker. Another employee who had been with Hoff’s for over a decade added “I trusted them.” Official termination papers were distributed, but no reason for termination was given.
According Massachusetts law, at-will employees do not need to be told why they are fired; “if they don’t like the color of your shoes, they can fire you,” said Pablo Carrasco, a staff attorney for Justice at Work, a nonprofit legal office that provides legal and technical support to worker’s centers and community organizers who want to strengthen workplace conditions. “More and more companies are shifting away from hiring their own employees, and moving to a staffing agency because being an employer carries obligations and responsibilities, such as worker’s comp, unemployment insurance and payroll,” said Carrasco.
The bakers returned to work producing goods sold under private labels in grocery stores around the country, in the same positions they previously held, as temp employees.
Then, in March 2020, businesses across Massachusetts were shut down due to the pandemic. In April 2020, Hoff’s Bakery received $1.21 million from the Paycheck Protection Program, while Masis Staffing Solutions received $7.5 million. The bakery, estimated to be worth $16 million, received a five-year property tax break from the city, resulting in savings totaling $570,000. In the decades the bakery has been in operation, it has tripled in capacity, opened a popular retail outlet, and become a local institution.
Despite only paying 80% of their property taxes and receiving a million-dollar bailout, not all employees were called back when the bakery reopened for production. One former bakery employee, who had been with Hoff’s for over five years, explains: “The only time we heard from them was when a woman called me to tell me that I no longer had a job. I asked her why and she didn’t even know the reason either.”
When many longtime employees noticed they weren’t asked to return, they tried to ask Frattura why, but were rebuffed. “There was no attempt to work with us,” said Allie Rojas, an organizer with La Comunidad, an Everett-based non-profit that works with Latinx immigrants to address issues like the one faced by the former Hoff’s employees.
Some of the workers feel their issues would not be taken seriously by the community at large, and so were reluctant to speak out. Community organizers are trying to demonstrate just how much we value their voices. The conversation is just getting started, and we are listening.
Please sign the petition. Additionally, please donate to their GoFundMe. You can listen to the workers in their own words here. Mutual aid networks can be found here. Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.