JANUARY 22 Members of
Chicago's Mexican Fine Arts Center and Museum who turned out for an
exhibit opening saw more than they bargained for Tuesday night ... and
many said they were glad they did.
Among the people who turned out for the
opening of the Center's Frida Kahlo - Diego Rivera and 20th Century
Mexican Art exhibit were striking Azteca workers who, along with some
40 supporters, held a spirited demonstration outside the museum. Azteca
workers were at the opening to draw attention to their struggle and the
fact that Azteca CEO and owner Art Velasquez is on the museum's board of
directors. They found a good deal of support for the strike and their
efforts from the museum's guests.
"What would Frida Do?," they
asked people entering the museum, a reference to the late Mexican
painter's activism. They encouraged the museum's members to contact
Executive Director Carlos Tortolero to urge him remove Velasquez from the
Support for the workers' struggle was
broad enough to cause striker Josefina Bionilla to comment "we've
seen a major shift in support from the Chicagoland community. Many museum
members told us of their hearing of our fight and asked how they could
help." The UE leader added, "Azteca Foods is is isolating itself
in our community as a law breaker."
Two television stations were on hand to
cover the event and a number of the museum's members spoke with the
strikers and shared stories of solidarity and support.
Azteca Foods workers have been walking a
picket line outside of Azteca's headquarters in Chicago since September
30th when they began a strike for justice against the company.
UE's efforts to reach a first contract agreement began in May, 2002 and
have, to date, been unsuccessful. Azteca workers, mostly Spanish-speaking
Mexican immigrant women, are members of UE Local 1159. Azteca Foods is one
of the nation's largest and most successful tortilla producers with
revenues of up to $33 million a year.