The rally was part of a day of solidarity activities that drew more than 80 people on the one-year anniversary of the strike. The flour workers went on strike when the company reopened Teamsters Local 657’s contract to triple their health insurance payments.
The day began with early morning pickets greeting the first shift of scabs Guenther is using to maintain production. A midday march around the mill, which stopped to rally at the company offices, was followed by a barbecue and meeting at the union’s outdoor strike headquarters across the street.
At the barbecue, Local 657 President Frank Perkins thanked strike supporters present, including representatives of the AFL-CIO, the San Antonio Central Labor Council, members of the Communications Workers of America, American Federation of Teachers, Sheet Metal Workers, Ironworkers, other Teamsters including UPS workers, League of United Latin American Citizens, Occupy San Antonio, and some political candidates.
UNITE HERE representatives organizing local hotels and Mike Hill, a San Antonio taxi driver organizing Yellow Cab drivers into the Teamsters, drew an energetic round of applause.
“The company has hardly spoken with the union all year,” production worker Rogelío Martínez told the Militant. “They just hope we will give up and go away,” he said. “But we aren’t going anywhere.”
Strikers are not eligible for unemployment compensation and many have had to find temporary jobs. Martínez said all the strikers take turns manning the pickets, which have been during work hours every workday since the strike started. Martínez pickets four hours every day the mill is running. “I’ve always been a union man,” he said proudly.
“The company works hard to discourage workers from joining the union, but without it we wouldn’t be anywhere,” said Pablo Sanchez, a mixer operator who has worked for Pioneer for 40 years. In 2000 the company fired Sanchez, but through a union fight he won his job back.
Passing motorists honked in support. Ed Fife stopped his bicycle to speak with the pickets. “I pass by here every day on my way to work,” he said. “I want you to know that I support you and that I think what you are doing standing up for all of us is important.”
“It all boils down to basic humanity,” striker Jorge Soto told the Militant. “They think they can just push us around and that we will accept anything. But we are standing up for our humanity.”
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No worker has to die!
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