LITTLE VILLAGE — Workers held a rally Thursday at the El Milagro tortilla factory in Little Village, saying the company’s management failed to meet a deadline to talk with workers.
Workers have pushed for better pay and working condition at the factory for months. They gave management a deadline of Wednesday to meet with them — but didn’t hear back. Instead, they said, they’ve received threats about being replaced; in response, they’ve contacted the National Labor Relations Board.
Organizers said a crowd of about 100 people gathered for the rally Thursday on 26th Street. They marched to the factory, 3050 W. 26th St., while carrying signs and chanting slogans like, “Milagro, listen, we are in the fight,” in Spanish. The crowd grew as workers and organizers held a news conference.
The rally followed an incident last week where employees walked out for an hour after informing management of their plans. When they tried to return, the company had locked them out of the factory, not allowing them to get their personal belongings. It was only after hours of negotiations, which included police, that the workers were allowed back into the building to get their belongings.
On Thursday, the workers reiterated their demands, saying the issues they’ve experienced with pay and conditions have been around for years. They said they’ve had to work in extreme heat, work seven days a week at time and have had sexual harassment complaints ignored.
Alma Sanchez, who works at the company’s 31st Street location, said she spoke on behalf of all the female employees of El Milagro who have experienced sexual harassment — only to have nothing was done about it.
Sanchez said workers are asking management to sit down and have a conversation about the terms being requested, but all they’ve been met with is fear and threats.
Alfredo Martinez, another 31st Street worker, said the employees are trying to help El Milagro, not work against it.
“This is not against the company,” Martinez said in Spanish. “This is in favor of the company. The better conditions we have, the better we can work.”
After hearing from El Milagro workers, elected officials, clergy members and community members spoke in solidarity with the workers. Among the speakers was Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th); Alma Anaya, Cook County commissioner of the 7th District; and Celina Villanueva, state senator for the 11th District.
The workers have been helped in their organizing by Arise Chicago. At the rally, the group’s strategic campaigns organizer, Jorge Mújica, said workers are not on strike — but they’ve been threatened.
Workers received letters from management with threatening language, calling their walkout and rally “economic strikes” and saying workers could be “permanently replaced,” Mújica told the crowd.
“This kind of language led us to two hours ago charging unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board,” Mújica said.
Mújica also said workers are not calling for a boycott of El Milagro products. He said their main focus remains getting management to the table to discuss the workers’ requests.
El Milagro could not immediately be reached for comment.
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