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Tortilla Makers
Choose UE,
Wrap Up Victory
For Democracy


Schmalbach-Lubeca workers savor the victory of the Azteca workers in gaining a democratic union.
Schmalbach-Lubeca workers, who are also organizing into UE, savor the victory of the Azteca workers in gaining a democratic union.

Workers at Azteca Foods, a manufacturer of tortillas and tortilla chips, voted by a more than two-to-one margin for UE in a representation election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board on April 12. The vote was 59 for UE, 25 for the company, and 1 for the discredited Distillery Workers Union. Azteca employs approximately 90 workers.

The election victory follows a campaign begun several months ago when Latino community organizations sought out UE to assist in bringing democratic unionism to Azteca. For more than 20 years Azteca workers were trapped within Distillery Workers Local 3. With the help of the Chicago Workers’ Center they deauthorized dues payments to the corrupt incumbent union and last fall began organizing into UE.


Workers at Azteca, many of whom carry 10 to 20 years of seniority, organized around a program demanding fair wages, better benefits, respect and real union representation. A key issue for many Azteca workers was developing the organization and power needed to stop a torrent of unfair writeups issued by the boss.

Fighting their way into UE required that Azteca workers face off against a professional unionbuster hired by the company and overcome an anti-union campaign which included captive audience meetings and retaliatory discipline aimed at UE activists. But Azteca workers fought back hard, marching on the boss’ office to protest the discipline of union leaders.

One occasion, in response to unfair discipline meted out to a union supporter, 25 workers confronted the owner to demand an explanation of the three-day suspension. The owner could only scream at them before storming out of the room.


Big majorities wore union T-shirts and stickers on the job to demonstrate their unity; many participated in leaflet "speakouts."

For the past two to three months, one-third to one-half of the Azteca workforce gathered every Sunday morning at a community church to plan the strategy which secured their victory. Guests at their Sunday morning meetings included UE local leaders who talked about their own organizing victories as well as UE national and district leaders.

A victory party was attended by more than 100 — Azteca workers, Schmalbach-Lubeca workers who are also organizing into UE, community supporters from the Chicago Workers’ Center and Jobs with Justice, members of UE Locals 1166 and 1114 and UE supporters from National Tissue in Milwaukee.

The Azteca workers’ first UE steward and negotiating committee election was scheduled for April 28.

Azteca workers had the assistance of Jose Santiago and Demaris Santana of Local 1166, who organized at APL Logistics (GATX) under similar circumstances, and Letitica Marquez, a National Tissue organizing committee member. Field Organizer Leah Fried was the primary staff on this campaign, receiving assistance from Field Organizers Don Sherman and Ramiro Castillo, International Representatives Tim Curtin and Bob Clark.

UE News - 4/02

Home -> UE News -> 2002 Archives -> Article

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