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Blacked out union story on scab tortillas

by Ed Rothstein Monday, Feb. 10, 2003 at 6:10 AM 312-829-8300

National boycott of Azteca tortillas and is boycotting this story on 63 immigrant (Mexican American) workers (most are women) who are running their picket line 24 hours/day through the Chicago winter. Azteca's Mexican American owner is trying to break the union. Help us spread the word to end this 4 1/2 months ordeal.


Boycott Azteca Totrilla, Tortilla Shells and Chips!

What is going on?

Workers who make Azteca Tortillas have formed a union to make fair

improvements for themselves and their families. Instead of bargaining a fair

first contract, Azteca Foods, based in Chicago, has come to the bargaining

table seeking to take away what its workers have. Azteca workers have been on

strike since September 30th.

- Azteca makes millions while workers struggle to make ends meet.

- Azteca wants to take away workers benefits and protections.

- Azteca has violated the law with threats, intimidation and surveillance of

the employees.

How can you help?

Contact Azteca Foods owner Art Velasquez and tell him to stop stalling and

negotiate a fair contract now!

Call Azteca at 800-475-7997 and send them an email message from the UE website


Don't Buy Azteca ™ Tortillas and Tortilla Chips!

United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, UE Local 1159

"We have no dispute with any person other than Azteca Foods. This leaflet has

been printed by the UE and does not relect the views of Azteca Foods, Inc.

This leaflet is for informational purposes only and does not encourage a

boycott of any store that carries their products."


Here are the facts:

The Struggle for Justice, Dignity & Respect at Azteca Foods

· On September 30th. 63 workers, who are members of the United Electrical

Workers union (UE) Local 1159, went on strike at Azteca Foods, a tortilla

factory on the southwest side of Chicago. They produce Azteca brand

refrigerated tortillas, tortilla chips and salad shells. Workers at Azteca

Foods have spent their lives at this company. The majority of them have been

working there over 12 years and a third have over 20 years with the company.

They are almost all Spanish speaking Mexican immigrants.

· Negotiations have been continuing with Azteca since May 2002. The workers

are seeking the following:

· Respect for Seniority in job transfers, shift preferences and overtime

· Overtime offered in order of Seniority

· Good Raises

· Better Retirement Benefits

· Sick days

· A grievance procedure and steward's rights

· Union security

· A right to distribute union literature in non-work areas on non-work time

· Azteca Foods, a privately-held corporation has a estimated revenue of

between -33 million a year. Their tortillas and chips are sold in major

grocery chains throughout the country, including at Jewel and Dominick's in


· Azteca workers describe their workload as being very heavy, and work under a

lot of pressure from often verbally abusive supervisors. They are concerned

about the numerous rashes, burns and workplace injuries that occur. It is a

very hot and very fast paced production line.

· Most of the workers make an hour. Azteca tortillas are sold 10 in a

refrigerated pack for a dollar or more to mostly non-Latino consumers. Azteca

makes over half a million tortillas daily that are produced and packaged by

machine. In contrast with small tortillerias, Azteca's production and product

has more in common with large processed food corporations and in fact was at

one time owned by Pillsbury. They pay at or below on average for this


· Azteca is demanding concessions aimed at cutting the minimal level of

protections and benefits workers have had for many years. The company sought

the following concessions from the workers:

· Ban on union leaflets on company property

· Maintain the right to lockout workers

· Maintain the company's right to file grievances against the union

· Gutting seniority rights in job bids and transfers

· Expanded management rights

· No union shop

· 700% increase in worker health insurance costs

· 2/3 of workers would receive a 5 cent raise

· Azteca would not help ensure bilingual negotiations. 97% of the entire

bargaining unit speaks Spanish as their primary language. The company said

they would not contribute towards nor provide for translation. To this day,

the company refuses to translate their proposals or the bargaining meetings.

· At the informational picket outside the plant to protest the company's

proposals, the company told all the workers they were fired for participating

in the picket. In response to this illegal activity, the UE filed unfair

labor practice charges for these threats, one on one interrigation and for

acts of surveillance, which includes, Azteca videotaping those workers

picketing. The National Labor Relations Board, a federal government agency,

has issued a complaint against the company.

· Recently, Azteca has denied the Occupational Safety & Health Administration

(OSHA), an U.S. Government agency, access to their plant to allow for

inspection of alleged federal law violations. In 2000, Azteca was cited for

12 violations of federal health & safety law, 10 of which were repeat


· Arthur R. Velasquez is President and Chief Executive Officer of Azteca

Foods, Inc. Mr. Velasquez has refused to meet with Chicago Workers' Rights

Board to discuss effect of the strike on the workers, their families and the



What can I do to help?

1. Contact Azteca Foods owner Art Velasquez at 800-475-7997 and tell him to

stop stalling and negotiate a fair contract now!

2. Send Azteca Foods an email message from the UE website at

3. Join with your local Jobs with Justice coalition and participate by

visiting local retailers who sell Azteca products and encourage them to join

the boycott.

Visit to find the local JwJ Coalition

in your area.

4. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspapers and let them know that

a national boycott of Azteca products is going on and encourage others to

contact the company.

5. Send this message out to all listserves that you participate in and let

them know about the workers fight for dignity, respect and justice. Ask them

to contact Azteca and let the company know that they are supporting the


6. Encourage other activists and organizations to sign the pledge of support

at the UE website,

7. Financial contributions are needed and would be appreciated. Please send

contributions to UE Local 1159, 37 South Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60607.

Contact for more information:

United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America

UE Local 1159


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