CHICAGO – The infamous giant inflatable rat, a symbol of scabbing and corporate injustice, made an appearance here Dec. 4. The action came a week after V&V Supremo reneged on a deal with production workers who have been on strike for seven months. The workers have been locked out and the company is attempting to force a $2 an hour cut in pay.
The rat was casting a shadow over the Jewel Supermarket in the Little Village neighborhood to dramatize the relaunching of a labor-community boycott of all V&V Supremo cheese and meat products. Jewel is the company’s largest client and refused to agree to the boycott after a delegation of labor, community and religious leaders met with store management Oct. 15.
“V&V Supremo wants the community to buy its products, but then stabs workers who live in the community in the back,” said Nelson Soza, a representative of the Midwest Region of the AFL-CIO. Most of the workers are Mexican immigrant workers who live in the same Pilsen community where the plant is located.
“Their plight is not unique. Millions of immigrant workers are getting exploited like this. V&V Supremo workers are on the front line of the battle to put an end to this,” he said.
Soza accused the company of violating the spirit of an agreement with the Teamsters that led to 30 distributive workers agreeing to a contract with substantial wage increases and 120 production workers going back to their jobs while a contract was being negotiated. When the production workers returned, the doors were locked.
The union has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It has won every previous challenge the company has brought to the NLRB, but V&V has arrogantly disregarded the rulings.
“V&V made a promise to bargain in good faith with these workers and then stabbed them in the back,” said Tom Stiede, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 703. “We will not back down. We will continue to fight until justice is achieved for all workers.”
“I have maintained from the beginning that I will not buy V&V Supremo until these workers have a fair contract,” declared Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).
Jewel recently launched a new advertising campaign, “Mas y Mas Frescura Latina,” in an effort to get more business in the Latino community. The campaign features a new character, Julito.
“They tell our community how much they like us,” said Gutierrez. “Don’t tell us how much you like us and then treat workers like this. Julito doesn’t buy scab cheese.”
In an appeal to the community, Gutierrez said, “If you buy the cheese, you are making the owners very rich and hurting your own brothers and sisters. Instead we need an act of solidarity.”
For more information on the boycott call Nelson Soza at (312) 282-5586 or Chicago Jobs with Justice at (312) 738-6161.