Struggle for First Contract,
Boycott Continue at Azteca
Local 1159 members, who ended their strike on May 5, are continuing their fight for a first contract and justice on the
job on the inside. Azteca Foods workers are calling on supporters to step up the boycott of the company’s tortillas and tortilla chips.
In May the union agreed to the company’s request to "create a better environment for negotiations." The union
ceased conducting rallies and other protest actions, and removed boycott information from the UE website. Azteca was apparently unmoved.
In negotiations on June 19, UE presented a complete proposal for a fair contract. The company’s representatives left
without a response and without setting a date for the next meeting.
The moratorium ended.
On June 24 people from around the country stood in solidarity with Local 1159 by participating in a National
"Fax-In" to Azteca Foods CEO Art Velasquez.
Supporters are pressing on to build a stronger, more extensive boycott. Information on the first-contract struggle at
Azteca and the boycott was distributed to the more than 1,000 activists who attended the Jobs with Justice annual meeting last month in
HEALTH INSURANCE SUSPENDED
When the strikers returned to work May 5, new challenges awaited them. Health insurance benefits were not reinstated. The
company claimed that the strikers were subject to a re-enrollment period of almost four months because of the work stoppage.
Despite the company’s claim that it has no control over this situation, no documentation has been presented to
demonstrate that the company can’t waive this re-enrollment period. Interestingly enough, Art Velasquez’s brother is the insurance
broker handling Azteca’s health insurance policy.
The company has also refused to pay workers’ accumulating health care bills, including bills for prescription drugs such
as insulin, asthma medication and arthritis pain killers. And workers’ children can’t go to the doctor for check-ups or emergencies.
The company eliminated the full-time mixer-machine operator positions and forced general laborers to do the work. The
laborers’ rate is more than $1 an hour below the mixer-machine operators’. Over the next three weeks, the reassigned laborers
experienced swollen arms, injured knees and strained wrists. Many workers had to get doctors’ notes preventing them from working that
position, despite not having health insurance.
In response, union members marched on the boss to demand relief. Management agreed to alternate the people filling the
mixer-machine position on a daily rather than weekly rotation, and to have an additional worker assist on that assignment.
Negotiations between Local 1159 and Azteca began in May 2002.
Although Azteca is a profitable and growing company with annual revenues of up to $33 million, the company has insisted on
stripping from workers what little they already have in wages, benefits and conditions. Azteca has proposed cuts in take-home pay of up to
37cents an hour and elimination of current protections for seniority and overtime.
UE News - 7/03