LOS ANGELES – On June 17, a hot summer day here, Fermin Rodriquez, a fired El Super market worker, marched alongside community, labor and religious leaders in the streets of Highland Park. The community of Highland Park is a located in northeast Los Angeles where one of 50 statewide El Super markets is located.
At the rally in front of the El Super store, 25,000 signatures on petitions calling for the reinstatement of Rodriquez was presented to El Super management. The heat of the day did not lessen the enthusiastic support for this on-going labor struggle against El Super.
“One day longer, one day stronger,” supporters chanted.
Rodriquez was fired by El Super for supporting a union organizing drive. His termination was part of a broader company push to intimidate workers who try to organize a union.
Labor has joined in the call for a boycott of El Super. Regio Valdez said, “This is the first major supermarket boycott called by LA labor in over a decade.”
People at the rally demanded that the company rehire Rodriquez and return to the bargaining table. Art Pulaski, head of the California State Federation of Labor said, “Labor supporters from Northern California to San Diego are here in support of the El Super workers. We are here in support of the boycott.
“Labor will not stand by as a multi-billion dollar corporation treats workers the way El Super has treated its workers. The California State Federation stands with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in declaring a boycott of El Super.
“This company has to realize that it has a choice. It can give respect, dignity and fair wages to their workers or they can continue to treat workers poorly and see the workers rise up getting stronger and more organized every day. We are going to win.”
Rusty Hicks, executive director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, spoke at the El Super rally indicating that the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor will support the boycott. “This Company is not doing the right thing for its workers,” Hicks said. “El Super is making profits on the backs of workers. A company threatening workers who want to join a union will not be tolerated by the labor movement.
“This movement today is a community labor solidarity action. It is something to build on. The labor union will be there to help this movement. Let’s be clear all workers have value. People power will force El Super to do the right thing. This will now be a statewide action with labor support.”
Rev. Sam Bulten, a member of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), a group that represents a broad range of ethnic and denominational constituencies, joined in supporting the El Super workers and boycott. Bulten said, “Many of the Los Angeles clergy groups have too come together to support this community and the El Super workers against this highly unjust action of busting the union, a union that the workers voted for. CLUE will stand with the workers against this illegal action.”
Students came from around Los Angeles County to participate in the March and rally. Raiza Arias, a student at California State University Northridge and a UFCW Local 770 member, was just one of many students participating in the El Super struggle to win fair wages, respect and the right to join a union.
Arias said that on her campus the janitors are working extra hours and not being paid by their employer, just another indication that disrespect for workers rights is not just here in Highland Park.”
El Super operates 50 stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. It is owned by Mexico’s third largest retailer and has made billions in profit. Regio Valdez said, adding that “at some point there may be a rally organized in Mexico City against El Super.”
Photo: Rossana Cambron/PW