The following was submitted by Pancho Valdez of San Antonio
“Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital and deserves much the higher consideration.” – Abraham Lincoln
On Wednesday, October 5th between 40-45 community and labor activists gathered in front of the Oak Farms Dairy in San Antonio to show support for the worker’s right to organize a union. The Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco & Grain Millers Union is the union organizing the dairy workers.
Three members of the organizing committee; Fred Garrett, Art Brown and Carlos Torrento attempted to meet with Oak Farms bosses to demand that the company reinstate Alex Vasquez and recognize the BCTGM as the bargaining unit for the dairy workers. Both demands were rejected by Oak Farms and the organizing committee returned to the picket line assembled in front of the plant where the small but loud crowd chanted.
Vasquez a former route delivery driver was fired on August 31 of this year. Both he and the union contend that his firing was related to his union activity as he was an outspoken member of the organizing committee. What makes Vasquez’s firing interesting is the fact that Oak Farms management placed a poster on the company bulletin board with Vasquez’s picture on it. On the poster was written that he had been “termed” (terminated) The poster went on to warn workers to “keep an eye out for union activity!”
Instead of intimidating the workers the poster was photographed by one with his telephone and the union now has over 50% of the workforce signed up. Workers at the Oak Farms Dairy are forming their union in order to improve wages and benefits. Art Brown a route driver with 36 years of service with the company stated that he has not seen a pay raise in eight years!
Amongst the supporters were members of the American Federation of Teachers, the American Postal Workers Union, BCTGM, the Communications Workers of America, International Association of Fire Fighters, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, San Antonio Central Labor Council, the San Antonio Retirees Council, Teamsters on strike at Pioneer Flour Mill, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas State Employees Union CWA Local 6186 and UNITE HERE. Also present was the Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith who was arrested last July in a protest at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, members of the Bexar County Green Party, a representative for Congressman Lloyd Doggett and a member of the Communist Party USA.
The organizing drive at the Grand Hyatt, the Hyatt Regency, Oak Farms Dairy and the strike at Pioneer Flour Mill signifies labor activity not seen in San Antonio since the early 1970s. These labor struggles along with the growing nationwide Occupy Movement across the nation are viewed by many as a welcome response to the austerity forced upon the working class and their families due to corporate greed and the wasteful squandering of tax money on three unjustified wars!