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Chicago Community to Azteca —
Open Letter Urges
Azteca to Negotiate

Chicago, Il. — An open letter, sent to Azteca Foods in September 2003, urged the company to "do what is necessary to negotiate a fair contract that will improve conditions at Azteca Foods." The letter was signed by six members of Congress and representatives from a number of Chicago-area religious, community and activist groups.

Dear Mr. Velasquez;

We recognize the various contributions you have made to community institutions and organizations over the years. We also recognize that workers at Azteca Foods have been seeking a fair union contract for over a year, seven months of which they spent on strike. Since the strike ended, Azteca has suspended returning employee’s health insurance, leaving them and their families with out medical care.* We believe the workers have legitimate concerns regarding their pay, benefits and working conditions as illustrated by some of the takeaways proposed by Azteca Foods:

  • An effective pay cut of up to 42 cents an hour for most workers by significantly raising health insurance costs while offering 20 cents in raises over three years. Azteca revenues are $36 million annually, less than 9% of which is spent on labor costs;

  • Reductions in seniority rights in overtime distribution and job transfers;

  • The right to fire a worker for having a union leaflet on company property;

  • The right to discriminate against immigrant workers;

  • The right to maintain up to 15% of the total workforce as permanent temporary employees at low wages with no benefits.

Employees also cite safety as one of the reasons they want a union at Azteca. In the past three years, Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has cited Azteca Foods for 16 violations of health and safety regulations. Recently, a temporary worker became permanently disabled while working at Azteca Foods when his hand got caught between two moving conveyor belts, pulling his arm into the machine and grinding it to pieces. Workers also report injuries like rashes and burns.

We call on you to do what is necessary to negotiate a fair contract that will improve conditions at Azteca Foods.


Hon. Luis Gutierrez,
Member of Congress

Hon. Jan Schakowsky,
Member of Congress

Hon. William Lipinski,
Member of Congress

Hon. Jesse Jackson, Jr.,
Member of Congress

Hon. Danny Davis,
Member of Congress

Hon. Bobby Rush,
Member of Congress

Kim Bobo,
National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

Dr. Calvin Morris,
Community Renewal Society

William Purcell,
Office for Peace and Justice, Archdiocese of Chicago

Jesus Garcia,
Little Village Community Development Corporation

Carlos Arango,
Casa Aztlan

Emma Lozano,
Pueblo Sin Fronteras

Joshua Hoyt,
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Steve Fredricks,
Chicago Area Coalition on Occupational Health and Safety

William McNary,
Citizen Action Illinois

Chirag Mehta,
UIC Center for Urban Economic Development

John Donahue,
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Syd Bild,
Metro Seniors

Arturo Vasquez,
Heartland Alliance Centro do Educacion y Cultura

Pe Manivong,
Lao American Community Services

Cristine Pope,
Interfaith Leadership Project

Bob Vandrasic,
South Austin Coalition

Kent Lee,
The Korean American Resource and Cultural Center

Denise Lam,
Chinese Mutual Aid Association

Hatem Abudayyeh,
Arab American Action Network


*Editor's note: The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint subsequent to the delivery of this letter charging Azteca with violating U.S. Labor Law by discriminatorily suspending workers health insurance. Faced withthese charges, Azteca restored medical coverage and agreed to pay medical bills accumulated during the time insurance coverage was suspended. [Return to Text]

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Call Azteca today at 800-475-7997 ...
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and we are not asking anyone to cease picking up, delivering or transporting
any goods, or to cease performing any work or services.”