More than 350 Bronx factory workers are on strike against one of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the world.
The union workers—who manufacture and package medical ointments and creams at a Perrigo factory on Bathgate Ave.—were locked out Tuesday morning when they returned to work after Labor Day, they said Wednesday.
"I came here ready to work and, all of a sudden, I'm out on the street," said Lawrence McRae, a 55-year-old a pump operator.
Several of the striking workers are former Stella D'oro employees who lost their jobs in 2009 when the beloved Bronx cookie factory moved to Ohio following a bitter year-long strike.
Perrigo didn't return a request for comment.
The striking workers sat on camping chairs and stood behind police barriers Wednesday, eyeing security guards and Port Authority police officers stationed outside the Perrigo site.
The factory is located in the Bathgate Industrial Park on land that Perrigo leases from the Port Authority, which owns and operates the complex.
The conflict began last week when the workers rejected the terms of a new contract proposed by Perrigo, they said. Their old contract with the company expired Aug. 31 at midnight.
Perrigo offered a three-year wage increase of $1.80 an hour but the workers want a larger bump. They argue the starting wage at the factory is too low.
"The cost of living is going up," said Christopher Padilla, 23, a porter who attends community college after work. "How am I supposed to pay $1,000 a month for rent and pay for school when I make $8.75 an hour?"
Most new workers start at $8.50 an hour and many longtime workers make under $15 an hour despite decades on the job, they said. They handle chemicals and operate dangerous machines. Many live in the Bronx.
McRae believes Perrigo is stingy with its Bronx workers because the borough is poor, he said.
"I'm here more than 21 years and I make $13 an hour," he said. "People are being cheated out of the right wages. We don't want greedy wages, just fair wages."
The workers belong to Teamsters Local 210 but they and the union are at odds, several said. Bob Bellach, vice president of Local 210, said he believes the Perrigo proposal is reasonable because it offers a 4% wage hike, the largest the Bronx workers have ever received.
But the workers feel they deserve more and the company won't budge he said, calling the situation a "stalemate."
Michigan-based Perrigo is a leading supplier of prescription and non-prescription drugs to chain stores such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Its shares are traded on the NASDAQ.