El Milagro workers call for fair wages and end to harsh working conditions at Little Village walkout
El Milagro employees left their jobs on Thursday to picket one of the company’s tortilla production facilities in Little Village and demand fair wages and better working conditions.
Dozens of workers formed a picket line in front of El Milagro Tortilleria and the company’s adjacent taqueria, 3050 W. 26e St., singing in unison as passing vehicles honked in support.
“Justicia, yes! Abuso, no! workers applauded in Spanish, calling for justice and an end to the abuse they allegedly suffered.
As El Milagro continues to fight to keep store shelves stocked with its popular tortilla products, an organizer has scoffed at the shortage becoming a social media phenomenon as workers at the company continue to struggle.
Laura Garza, of the nonprofit workers’ rights group Arise Chicago, explained that El Milagro employees “have been working under difficult conditions for years” – conditions which she says have only helped ‘worsen during the coronavirus pandemic.
She said the company ignored guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and that at least 85 workers contracted COVID-19 last year. Five of them eventually died, she added, accusing the “negligence” of the management of the company.
“Clearly they cared more about their profits than people,” Garza said.
A series of workers then took the podium and compiled a list of serious allegations, Garza reiterating their statements in English.
Alma Sanchez reported that she and another woman had repeatedly reported sexual harassment at work, Garza said. But instead of addressing their concerns, Garza said the company “blamed the victims.”
Workers also claimed that El Milagro violated Chicago’s earned sick leave ordinance and that some employees were forced to work seven days in a row, among other allegations.
Although the workers have not organized themselves, they are already organizing themselves as the Workers’ Committee of El Milagro Tortillas, with the help of Arise. After the press conference, they delivered a letter to company executives demanding a meeting to discuss their various demands.
They include a salary grid built on the basis of seniority; the end of “harassment practices” on the part of management and human resources staff; and the immediate hiring of more workers to reduce the current workload to its “normal rate”.
Workers urged the company to respond by September 29.
El Milagro did not immediately respond to emailed questions about the protest and the demands of its workers.