CHICAGO, February 4, 2003 Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky were among those calling on Azteca Foods to negotiate a fair, first union contract at a Chicago press conference on Monday. They were joined by a number of other community and political leaders in support of 63 workers who have been on strike against Chicago-based Azteca Foods for more than four months.
The press conference, held at the Chicago Temple, included Alderman Ricardo Munoz, a representative from Congressman Danny Davis' office and speakers from a variety of community organizations. The speakers spoke in support of the national consumer boycott of Azteca tortillas, tortilla shells, chips and Buena Vida tortillas.
SUPPORT FOR AZTECA BOYCOTT
Gutierrez electrified those in attendance by urging support of the national consumer boycott sponsored by the workers' union, the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and talked of the community demanding that Azteca Foods CEO Art Velasquez do the right thing. In speaking to Azteca's management, Gutierrez said, "I urge you to negotiate a fair contract with your employees as soon as possible."
Schakowsky called on the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to intervene to end the dispute. She also called on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to work quickly to prosecute Azteca because of their labor law violations.
It was announced that five area congressmen, Reps. Davis, Gutierrez, Bobby L. Rush, Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. and William O. Lipinski, sent a letter to Daniel J. O'Leary, Director of Mediation Services at the FMCS Central Region urging them "to take a more active role toward facilitating a productive dialogue, resolving outstanding issues and reaching an equitable and fair settlement for all of the involved parties."
Hassan Muhammad, representing Congressman Danny K. Davis encouraged Azteca management to quickly resolve the four month long strike.
'OUT OF PATIENCE'
Jesϊs Garcνa, Former State Senator, and Executive Director of Little Village Community Development Corporation spoke of his attempts to mediate the strike between the company and the workers. While saying, "his patience has run out", he announced that he now supports the strikers in their fight for a fair contract. Garcia also mentioned his concern about the effect the strike was having on the community and the strikers along with their families.
A letter was read from Miguel del Valle, Chair of the Latino Caucus of the Illinois State Legislature which said, "I encourage Azteca Foods to aggressively move toward settling the strike in a way that will ensure workers, who are the most important asset of any company, will be treated fairly, with dignity and respect."
There was an excellent turnout from union allies thanks to Chicago Jobs with Justice.
A number of Teamster Locals were represented at the press conference including the second largest in the U.S., Local 705, which pledged its support to the workers. Teamsters Local 703 who represents the workers who battled to gain a fair contract from Chicago-based V&V Supremo announced their support as well. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881 called on its members at area grocery stores who have direct contact with Azteca's product line to support the fight for justice at Azteca Foods.
Among the other unions on hand to show solidarity included the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 21, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), Sheet Metal Workers Local 73 and the Chicago Teachers Union. The strikers truly appreciate the strong support from union members from all over the world making this a real international fight for justice.
Representing the Chicago community, John Donahue, Director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Co-chair of Chicago Jobs with Justice (JwJ) made a statement of solidarity with the strikers as well as Jeff Clinger of Seminarians for Worker Justice and Jennifer Barger of the Chicago Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. Other allies represented included Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Rogers Park Community Action Network, Chicago Rolling Thunder and the Green Party of Pilsen.
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