Growing boycott aids V&V Supremo strikers

CHICAGO – With the cold winter weather approaching, solidarity with striking V&V Supremo workers is heating up. The workers, who have been on strike here since May 29, have remained united despite company efforts to break the strike.

V&V Supremo, a maker of packaged cheeses, sits in an industrial neighborhood on the edge of the Mexican-American neighborhood of Pilsen. Most of the workers on strike are Mexican immigrants. Over the last couple of weeks, Teamsters Local 705 and the strike solidarity committee have stepped up pressure on V&V through a boycott of cheese products in Chicago, Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota.

Over 40 labor, community and religious organizations, and community leaders including Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez have joined the boycott. Father Brandon of St. Pius church, located in the heart of Pilsen, has been leading delegations weekly to area businesses. He reported that 99 percent of the stores have agreed to honor the boycott.

Two weeks ago a delegation met with management at the giant grocery chain Jewel. They left without a commitment by the company to take the V&V products off its shelves but demanded a decision next week. Actions will be organized at Jewel stores across the city if the chain doesn’t cooperate. Jewel’s rival, Dominick’s, agreed to honor the boycott weeks ago.

According to the strikers, the company has received nothing but complaints about the quality of the scab-processed cheese. Stores are not happy with the fact that V&V has responded by raising the price of a case of cheese from $40 to $60.

Before the strike, the workers were being forced to work 60-70 hour weeks, sometimes 16-hour days, for $6 an hour. The strikers are demanding a raise of $5 over three years and health insurance.

“They have been trying to get what’s fair and will stay out until they do,” Teamster’s Local 705 organizer Anthony Carioscia told the World. “This thing could have been settled by now, but the company has chosen to spend millions of dollars on scabbing and strike-breaking.”

Attorney John Raudabaugh is directing the company’s union-busting efforts. His law firm is also employed by Overnight Trucking in their long fight against the Teamsters. The company has been contracting with Chicago area day labor agencies to bring in scabs.

Community groups are being asked to visit stores in their neighborhood and ask that all V&V Supremo products be dropped until a contract issigned. To assist the boycott, call Teamsters Local 705 at (312) 738-1350 or Nelson Soza at the AFL-CIO Midwest office at (312) 492-6569 ext 15.