Azteca Workers Still Strong
In Their Fight for Justice
Above, left, Chicago union members joined Azteca strikers in taking their fight for rights on the job to LaSalle Bank
in October to protest the bank’s connection to Azteca Foods. Above right, Local 1111 member Sherry Duffy listen to
Christine Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera at a rally in Milwaukee.
Azteca workers, members of UE Local 1159, entered the New Year — and their fourth month on strike — still determined
to gain justice on the job and a first UE contract.
Sixty-three workers, mostly immigrant, Spanish-speaking women, stopped work on Sept. 30 to protest the unfair labor
practices of Azteca Foods. Sixty-three workers continue to walk the picket line in the fierce cold of a Chicago winter.
The company’s illegal violation of workers’ rights — including threats, interrogation and acts of surveillance —
provoked the strike. As this issue of the UE NEWS goes to press, the union prepared to file numerous additional unfair labor
practice charges, based on additional threats and the company’s failure to bargain in good faith.
Azteca workers voted to join UE by a three-to-one margin in April. In May they began negotiations with Azteca Foods for a
first contract. Instead of negotiating fairly, the profitable and growing company insisted on cutting take-home pay, stripping current
protections for seniority and overtime and denying basic rights.
Azteca enjoys annual revenues of up to $33 million.
No progress at the bargaining table was reported when the parties met Jan. 8.
In the meantime, however, a growing number of community organizations, elected leaders and religious institutions are
joining the struggle for justice at Azteca Foods.
In recent weeks, a delegation of Notre Dame students visited the picket line; Azteca owner Arthur Velasquez is an
alumnus of Notre Dame.
Azteca strikers sent holiday greeting cards to the members of various boards on which Azteca owner Velasquez serves.
Thanks to the generosity of other UE local unions and supporters from around the country, Azteca strikers and their
families enjoyed a holiday party, complete with a visit from Santa Claus, and gifts for the children. More than 200 attended; the
strikers collectively have more than 100 children. The families also received extra food for the holidays.
The Christmas season also saw a posada, a traditional Mexican re-enactment of the Christmas eve search by Joseph
and Mary for lodgings. The posada included a trip to the front entrance of the plant, and performance of traditional carols.
|John Goldstein, AFL-CIO Milwaukee Labor Council president (center) rallies in support of Azteca strikers along with
Local 1111 members Tim Burzynski, Tom Ciulla, Al Bugalski, Dorothy Rubik and Ellen Becker.
Last month, UE’s Milwaukee Regional Organizing Council (ROC) organized a rally to boost for the boycott of Azteca
products and show support for the Azteca strike.
"We are here today to send a message to owners and CEOs of companies and corporations that it is no more business as
usual," declared Mark Muszynski, a UE Local 1111 member and ROC chairperson. "It’s time to close the gap and take care
of workers that build the foundations of sound, profitable businesses."
Some 75 union members and community activists attended the rally, which was addressed by Alderman Angel Sanchez,
Salvador Deleon of Jobs with Justice, Christine Newman Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera, and Gina Banachi of Jobs with
Justice. Azteca strikers Josephina Bonilla, Isaac Cortez and Margie Rodriguez talked about their struggle. UE Field Org. Leah
Fried provided a synopsis of the negotiations and strike background.
The rally included leafleting at the Kohl’s store across the street from the park.
Distributing leaflets at grocery stores remains an important way to aid the Azteca strikers (see: Azteca Boycott: Products and Stores). And so is sending a contribution. Contributions can be sent to UE Local 1159 in care of UE District 11, 37 S. Ashland
Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607.