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Azteca Workers Stand Strong;
Boycott, Support Expand


Azteca Strike Support: in Erie, Pa ...
Azteca Strike Support: in North Carolina

UE members around the country turned out to help support the Local 1159 struggle for justice. At top, union members in Erie, Pa. leafleted grocery stores; so did Local 150 members in North Carolina, above.

Temperatures have dipped considerably since Sept.30 when UE Local 1159 members began their unfair labor practice strike against Azteca Foods, but workers’ determination to gain justice continues to soar.

Strikers are continuing their 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week picket line at the plant regardless of the weather. Mostly Spanish-speaking immigrant women, the strikers have vowed to "last one day longer" than Azteca millionaire-owner Arthur Velasquez.

The Azteca workers have called for a national boycott of Azteca tortillas, tortilla shells and tortilla chips. They are receiving widespread support. Some 4,000 email messages from around the world have been sent to Azteca headquarters. As the word about the Azteca Foods strike spreads throughout Chicago, UE Local 1159 members are enjoying ever-greater levels of community support.

Strikers and supporters have visited dozens of grocery stores in the Chicago area to encourage store managers and customers to support the national boycott of Azteca Foods tortillas, tortilla shells and chips.

Chicago’s Seminarians for Worker Justice, joined by Centro Legal Sin Fronteras, marched on Azteca, attempted to present a letter to Velasquez, and joined the picket line. Workers met Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George in front of the Mexican Fine Arts Museum, where the Cardinal attended a fundraiser for the Chicago area organization Casa Jesus. Azteca Foods CEO Art Velasquez is a member of the museum’s board of directors. Cardinal George agreed to look into the issues at the heart of the strike.


The Progressive Student Alliance of Notre Dame University met with strikers to learn the Azteca story first-hand. The students agreed to contact the Azteca CEO by phone to remind Velasquez — a member of the University’s Board of Trustees — that he should adhere to Catholic social teaching and negotiate a fair contract. Loyola Students Against Sweatshops organized a Nov. 12 benefit for the Azteca strikers.

Azteca strikers joined with thousands of others in Chicago’s Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue March. Strikers have been attending meetings of allies and participating in activities in and around Chicago, including a United Food and Commercial Workers press conference and a rally of Chicago Wal-Mart workers.


Azteca strikers took their fight for rights on the job to LaSalle Bank on Oct. 31, to protest the bank’s connection to Azteca Foods. Company CEO Velasquez serves on the bank’s board of directors and the company receives loans from LaSalle. More than 100 workers, labor, community and religious leaders participated in the noontime rally. They demanded that LaSalle’s CEO seek the resignation of Velasquez from the bank’s board. Univision TV network covered the story as well as a number of radio and print news outlets.

"I’ve worked at Azteca for years," says Local 1159 member Josefina Bonilla. "All we want is fair treatment and a union contract at Azteca Foods. LaSalle shouldn’t have a businessman like Velasquez on their board."

UE members and supporters leafleted and picketed grocery stores in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh as well as in North Carolina and in numerous other communities from coast-to-coast to educate consumers about Azteca’s actions.

Azteca workers voted overwhelmingly to join UE in April. Since then, they have been seeking fair improvements in their wages, benefits and working conditions. Azteca has gone on the attack, seeking to slash protections workers have had for years. The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against Azteca for trying to fire its workers for participating in a peaceful protest, interrogation of its workers and illegal surveillance of union activity.

UE News - 12/02

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