NY Officials Rally to Save Dairy Jobs

US - New York City elected officials, neighbourhood grocers, Teamsters Local 584 leaders and workers rallied on the steps of City Hall this week to demand Starbucks Corporation drop plans to shift its source of milk from Elmhurst Dairy in Queens to a non-union plant out of the City by the end of this week.
calendar icon 17 June 2011
clock icon 7 minute read

Starbucks' action could force the City's last remaining dairy processor to close, leading to the loss of over at least 700 jobs at the Jamaica facility and its related distribution operation, the protestors claim.

Attending the event to speak out against Starbucks' action were City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie, Council Member Ruben Mills, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, the Queens City Council delegation, Teamsters Local 584 vice president Frank Wunderlich and over 150 Elmhurst Dairy employees.

Elmhurst Dairy employs 252 workers in its processing plant in Jamaica, with over 450 other people employed on-site by distribution and support operations. Elmhurst has supplied processed milk to Starbucks since 2003 through a distributor, Bartlett Dairy, under an agreement that extends to November 2013.

Elmhurst Dairy recently learned Starbucks and Bartlett plan to replace Elmhurst with an out-of-city milk processor, Dean Foods, by Friday, June 17, walking away from the contractual commitment to New York City's last remaining dairy plant.

At present, a substantial percentage of Elmhurst's business is attributable to the milk it processes for Starbucks. The sudden loss of this business could force Elmhurst, like every other New York City-based milk plant before it, to close its doors.

Elmhurst Dairy is the sole provider of milk to 8,300 independent small grocery stores citywide as well as over 1,400 NYC public schools.

The closure of Elmhurst Dairy would eliminate the last local competitor to out-of-state milk distributors, potentially disrupting milk deliveries to neighborhood grocers and inevitably increasing the cost of milk for both consumers and the City school system.

"In addition to providing milk to generations of New Yorkers, Elmhurst Dairy provides jobs to more than 700 families in Jamaica, Queens and around the city," said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn.

"If Starbucks continues with plans to terminate its contract with Elmhurst it will likely cause this company to go under, laying off hundreds of workers at a time when unemployment is already too high.

"On their website, Starbucks states that they believe 'businesses can -- and should -- have a positive impact on the communities they serve'. We're calling on Starbucks to live up to those words, and to their contract, by not turning their backs on New York City."

"Elmhurst Dairy is a five generation family owned business that employs almost 700 people. It's a New York institution and major employer in Queens," said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.

"We intend to do everything in our power to keep these jobs right here and are hopeful that the contract that keeps Elmhurst Dairy running is allowed to continue."

"Starbucks' plans to transfer its milk production outside of New York City would be a devastating blow to communities and to the hundreds of workers at the city's only remaining dairy plant," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

"If we're going to rebuild our city's economy and put New Yorkers back to work, we need to keep businesses we have right here where they belong. As Starbucks continues to grow and benefit from city residents, I urge them to reconsider the move and continue to support Queens' Elmhurst Dairy."

"Elmhurst Dairy is one of the oldest successful businesses in my Congressional District. It has been in existence since the 1800's and is the only dairy processing plant in NYC," said U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks.

"The loss of the Starbuck's account to a non-union dairy outside of the city would be catastrophic for Elmhurst Dairy and would make it difficult for them to continue. This would bring loss of union jobs that would significantly impact my district and NYC's already flailing job market. I strongly urge Starbucks to reconsider."

"I am proud to join Speaker Quinn and my fellow Queens colleagues on this issue," said Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie.

"Elmhurst Dairy is an invaluable institution in our City, not only as a provider of dairy products for New Yorkers, but as a long-time employer and good corporate citizen.

"I have had the privilege of working with them over the years as co-sponsors of job fairs and community holiday events that my office has held.

"Elmhurst Dairy is the last remaining milk processor in New York City and processes the milk consumed at all the New York City public schools and all the Starbucks locations in the New York metro area. Elmhurst also services many local grocers whose contracts are too small for large milk producers to service.

"Starbucks' plan to move the production of the milk supplied to their stores out of New York City to a non-union plant would potentially result in the loss of hundreds of union jobs in Southeast Queens, which has long suffered from unemployment and the recent closure of the Wonder Bread factory."

"I strongly urge Starbucks to reconsider their decision and delay the June 17th deadline to prevent the significant negative impact this will have on our City," stated Council Member Ruben Mills.

"I am outraged that Starbucks, a company that has stores on nearly every city block in Manhattan, and has reaped billions of dollars in sales in New York City, is not fulfilling their contract with Elmhurst Dairy. Starbucks and their PR machine have said repeatedly that they care about being good neighbors and investing in the neighborhoods they serve.

"Moving their milk supplies from New York City to a non-union plant goes against what they tell the public. At a time when New York City and my district are still dealing with the lasting effects of the recession and unemployment rates remain high, it is irresponsible of Starbucks to potentially cost my district and New York City hundreds of jobs," Mills added.

"Since 1919, Elmhurst Dairy has been a major employer in Queens and important member of the business community," said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

"During these difficult economic times, we cannot afford to lose Elmhurst Dairy or the 700 jobs it helps to sustain in our local economy. I am proud to stand with New York City's last dairy manufacturer to send a clear message that Starbucks must honor its agreements."

"Now more than ever, New York can ill afford to lose good paying, union jobs," said Dennis Hughes, president, New York State AFL-CIO. "During these challenging economic times, it is important for Starbucks to remain committed to New York and the working men and women of this city.

"On behalf of our 2.5 million members, the New York State AFL-CIO calls upon Starbucks to reconsider putting hundreds of their current employees out of work."

"This arrangement threatens hundreds of good, union jobs at a time when we should putting New Yorkers to work. I call on Starbucks to put off any measure that will put these jobs in jeopardy and to uphold their commitment to the Jamaica community and New York City," George Miranda, president of the Teamsters Joint Council 16, representing 120,000 working men and women in New York City and its surrounding counties.

"The middle class in this city has no future unless we can keep and grow quality jobs like those at Elmhurst Dairy. New York City customers have given Starbucks a tremendous amount of business, and in return Starbucks is now planning to take hundreds of good jobs out of our city," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

"I have urged Starbucks in the strongest terms to live up to its promises, or risk losing the reputation it holds here as a company that treats its workers and suppliers fairly."

"We cannot afford the loss of 700 jobs in Queens during the current difficult economic climate," said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. "I call on Starbucks and all parties involved to come together, work together and have a positive impact on a resolution that will result in saving jobs that families rely on."

"The loss of the Starbucks business by Elmhurst Dairy will have a serious impact on jobs that are lost to Southeast Queens and New York City," said Rev. Floyd Flake. "We are already suffering from jobs that have been lost and numerous foreclosures. Save Elmhurst Dairy and keep jobs in New York."

"Closing Elmhurst Dairy would cause milk prices for neighborhood markets to significantly increase, affecting our customers who are already struggling to make ends meet," said Andres Rerreira, president of the Neighborhood Supermarket Association and owner of several grocery stores.

"Elmhurst Dairy provides well-paying jobs to hundreds of New Yorkers and provides the milk that has literally fed generations of the City's residents," said Henry Schwartz, Elmhurst Dairy owner and president.

"As a locally based business, Elmhurst Dairy aligns closely with the principles of social responsibility that Starbucks claims are its hallmark. We join with elected officials, union leaders and our employees to urge Starbucks to continue to support New York City's sole remaining dairy plant, jobs and the local economy."

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