By JANITORS UNIDOS DEL NORTE – a group of rank and file unionists where La Voz & other comrades are active in.
Mi Pueblo stores have become part of the everyday life of the Latino immigrant community, especially Mexican, in northernCalifornia.
Juvenal Chavez, the owner of Mi Pueblo, was a Mexican immigrant who was working as a janitor atStanfordUniversity. After a while he went into business selling meat and groceries. His business prospered over the years and he became a wealthy & powerful businessman. Today Juvenal owns about 22 stores around the Bay Area and employs more than 3,000 workers.
Due to the large Hispanic population in northernCalifornia, Mi Pueblo stores have become the preferred points of purchase for many Latino immigrants, and a reference point with the customs and traditions of the Latin American countries, especiallyMexico. Additionally, the Mi Pueblo store located at the corner ofKing RoadandStory RdinSan Josewas the center of organization of the huge demonstrations of Latino immigrants that shook the city in the first half of 2006- whom demanded an unconditional legalization for the undocumented. This is one reason why Juvenal also won the sympathy of thousands of immigrants as they came to this country in search of success and progress.
Workers wake up but big obstacles stand in their way
Juvenal attacks with E-Verify
The wealth that Juvenal now possesses has been the product of the efforts and sacrifices of his workers. Like the rest of the immigrant working class, the workers of Mi Pueblo have some of the lowest wages. Their benefits are precarious amid a cost of living that increases daily. Their salary does not exceed $8.00 or $9.50 per hour and they must make a co-payment of $20.00 that doesn’t have family coverage. We can then add the lack of job security and uncertainty over the immigration status of many of the workers and we have a picture that is really frustrating for the workers.
Many workers have awakened and have become aware of the need to organize in a union to fight for their own demands to the employer. This is a legitimate feeling of justice for workers for the workers of Mi Pueblo that all working people should support.
The interest of the workers for a union has coincided with the interests of the UFCW leadership to organize them in order to prevent this non-union supermarket from competing with the more powerful chains of Safeway and Lucky in order for Mi Pueblo to stop being “loose wheel” in the business of the other super-markets. UFCW also do not want these workers outside the control of UFCW. It is possible that the organizing campaign launched by UFCW in Mi Pueblo is part of an agreement with Safeway and LUCKY to “constrain” Juvenal and to standardize lower wages and benefits for all workers in the supermarket sector.
Juvenal attacks his workers and counter-attacks the union with E-Verify
Juvenal is in a trap. His employees want to organize a union. UFCW union leaders want to put the workers under the control of the union in Mi Pueblo to negotiate with Juvenal. But Juvenal, being the prosperous and proud employer he is, does not want to deal with the union. He believes that he has been sufficiently “generous” with his workers for them to unionize now. On the other hand, he does not want the union leaders to get a part of his profits that he derives from the exploitation of his workers. To resolve this, Juvenal has decide to use the federal program E-Verify, which has proven to be a powerful weapon provided by the Obama administration to employers in order to combat the dissent of immigrant workers- who are one the most exploited and oppressed sectors.
In this way Juvenal Chávez has put in disarray many of his workers who have chosen to give up their jobs before undergoing E-Verify, through which immigration could identify and deport them. In this way he has succeeded in removing the interest of his workers for a union.
For its part, the union bureaucracy seems to not care much about what happens to the workers, even if they pretend to care. The union bureaucracy has called for a boycott against Mi Pueblo correctly denouncing the implementation of the E-Verify program by Juvenal. However, the start of the boycott was a fiasco. No more than 30 people showed up and there were no workers of Mi Pueblo or other chain stores that were present. The call to boycott was not wrong; what is wrong is that the boycott is not being democratically organized with the participation of the workers and with the unconditional call for solidarity from the rest of the working class with these workers. Furthermore, the union’s organizing campaign has also not had the active and democratic participation of Mi Pueblo workers and this has allowed Juvenal to implement all repressive measures against workers. A bureaucratic union leadership that does not consult its workers and defines their tactics and strategies without consulting the feelings of the workers aborts the fight.
Long live the union in Mi Pueblo! The workers must decide how to organize themselves!
As we have said, we support the Mi Pueblo workers to have union. We are willing to do unity in action with the bureaucratic union leadership to strike together against the employers. But we openly denounce the bureaucratic & irresponsible method that the union leaders are leading this campaign. Their undemocratic methodology and the employer have claimed many of the workers’ jobs who trusted them and that ultimately favored the employer. For this reason, we call all of the conscious workers to continue the struggle for a truly independent and democratic union that confronts the bosses & denounces the bureaucratic leaders and employers.
Long live the struggle of the workers of Mi Pueblo!!!
Down with E-Verify!
For a democratic union for the workers!!!