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V & V Supremo workers win union recognition

V & V Supremo workers, mostly Mexican immigrants, ended a 6 month strike after winning recognition for the Teamsters union and agreement on a contract.
By John Bachtell
People's Weekly World

Chicago - “This is a perfect example that if we stay united in battle we will win the war! Si se puede!” declared Teamsters Local 703 Secretary-Treasurer Thomas Stiede to a jubilant victory celebration at St. Pius Church for workers at V and V Supremo. Nearly 150 workers, mostly Mexican immigrants, had been on strike against the food processing company since May 29 for union recognition and a contract. The company was forced to submit after they lost every challenge to the recognition vote before the NLRB.
“These immigrant workers are soldiers of change and through their own personal sacrifice won dignity from their employer,” said Stiede referring to the warehouse workers and drivers after they unanimously ratified their first contract.
About 119 production workers agreed to return to work while their contract was being negotiated. As of November 26 the company was locking them out, but union officials expected a quick resolution of outstanding matters.
The contract calls for a 35% wage increase over 3 years for drivers, and a 25% increase for warehouse workers. A full benefits package will be on the agenda for the next contract.
Stiede read off a long list of unions, community organizations, religious leaders and elected officials, many of them present, who lent their support to the strikers. In thanking them he said the coalition effort was decisive to victory. A boycott of V & V Supremo cheese at Chicago stores was organized by the coalition.
Alfredo Cortez, a strike leader thanked everyone for their support. “We can win if we go all the way together,” he declared.
“It’s one thing to have a turkey for Thanksgiving and another to have a contract for workers,” said Reverend Jesse Jackson. “Workers deserve a livable wage and the right to organize.”
Margaret Blackshere, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO welcomed the workers into the ranks of organized labor. “I am so proud to be a union member today. You make me feel there is hope, that we will win and that we can all belong to a union,” she said.
The strikers extended special thanks to Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who had on numerous occasions publicly rallied support for the strike. Once in front of TV cameras he dramatically dumped scab cheese into a garbage can.
“I am proud to represent you in Congress,” Gutierrez told the workers. “When I return to Washington and people say we can’t do anything for working men and women, I will tell them about you.”
Sarita Gupta, director of Chicago Jobs with Justice noted “this victory was a victory for solidarity and labor – community unity. We defeated V & V Supremo attempts to break the strike with scabs from the day labor agencies.” Jobs with Justice was a key organizer of the boycott.
“Thanks for carrying it through to the end and for setting the example to workers who will come after you,” said Nelson Sosa, a leader of the AFL-CIO Midwest Region who also played a key role in rallying labor support for the strike. “This is a time for change. We are going to stand up for our rights.
“There are thousands of workers who need the example of your work,” Sosa said, in acknowledging the presence of a group of strikers from Carousel Linens. “We will fight for them too. This is not an end but a beginning.”



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