Tortilla Makers Choose UE, Wrap Up Victory

April 15, 2002

Workers at Azteca, a tortilla factory, 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. 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. Big majorities wore union T-shirts and stickers on the job to demonstrate their unity.

For the past two to three months, one-third to one-half of the Azteca workforce gathered every Sunday morning at 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.

Field Organizer Leah Fried was the primary staff on this campaign, receiving assistance from Organizers Don Sherman and Ramiro Castillo, International Representatives Tim Curtin and Bob Clark and rank-and-file activists from UE’s Chicago and Milwaukee locals.

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