For many Americans who grew up in the Northeast, a coffee break simply wasn’t right without Stella D’oro cookies. Established in the Bronx over 70 years ago, the Stella D’oro factory produced thousands of Italian-inspired cookies through the support of a tight-knit group of workers, most of whom came from far-away countries to pursue their American dreams.
The trouble began in 2006, when Brynwood Partners bought the factory. Instead of renewing the workers’ contracts as they stood, Brynwood sought to reduce wages by 30% and drastically cut benefits. For the many workers who had been with the factory for 30 years, this was a devastating blow.
No Contract, No Cookies documents the 11-month long employee strike that followed the proposed wage reductions, exposing the personal struggles of the workers to maintain a positive outlook. When Brynwood refused to reinstate the employees, a lawsuit followed. When the judge ruled in favor of the workers, few could hold back their emotions. Though it seemed a happy ending was in sight, Brynwood’s response to the verdict was tragic and heartbreaking, leaving 138 workers and their families to struggle with a questionable future.
Though No Contract, No Cookies fails to offer a thorough perspective on Brynwood Partners and the economic complexities of the neighborhood, the passion and unbreakable bond of the workers is undeniably compelling. When two former Stella D’oro employees, a bear-like Greek man and an outspoken Vietnamese fellow, cement their friendship over heaping bowls of Pho, we are reminded that behind every factory machine is a craftsman with a story to tell. The origins of a workers’ strike may be rooted around the boss man, but the legacy seems to ultimately confront the consumer.
No Contract, No Cookies is playing throughout the month of July. Check HBO for local listings.