JANUARY 23 CHICAGO UE has
formally charged Azteca Foods with bad faith bargaining and obstructing
the union's efforts to reach a first contract in two Unfair Labor Practice
(ULP) charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
The legal action follows more than eight
months of fruitless bargaining and the company's apparent unwillingness to
reach an agreement that would end a nearly five month old unfair labor
practice strike at its Chicago headquarters.
The bad faith bargaining charge accuses
the company of engaging in "surface bargaining" or, more simply,
bargaining without intending to reach an agreement.
UE argues that Azteca has made
concessionary demands offering less to its workers than had been
contained in their previous union contract without even offering an
adequate explanation. Further, the union charges that Azteca has refused
to meet face-to-face with the bargaining committee and has tried to
condition bargaining sessions on the union first submitting written
proposals in the mail.
Further hampering bargaining, UE says
Azteca has delayed or refused to provide information needed for the union
to negotiate. Information requests are a routine part of bargaining which
employers are required to respond to in a timely fashion.
A previous set of ULP charges against
Azteca for its use of threats, interrogation and surveillance were upheld
by the NLRB. In that case, Azteca is charged with threatening workers with
termination for participating in an informational picket outside the
Azteca workers, who make Azteca brand
refrigerated tortillas, tortilla chips and salad shells and Buena Vista
brand fat-free tortillas, have been on the picket line in an Unfair Labor
Practice Strike since September 30th. They are looking for their first UE
contract, following a representation election in which they chose UE over
a corrupt, company union by a margin for more than three-to-one.
Azteca is a privately-held company with
estimated revenues of about $30 million a year.
The majority of Azteca workers are women
who have been employed by Azteca for more than 12 years and a third have
over 20 years with the company. They are almost all Spanish speaking