The whole world is watching the continuing struggle for justice and the daily bread at The Earthgrains Company. Representatives of world food workers and Portugal’s food union have made clear that they stand in solidarity with striking Earthgrains workers in the U.S. In separate letters written this week to Earthgrains CEO Barry Beracha, the top officers of the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) and the Portuguese Food, Agricultural and Forestry Workers expressed their “deep concern” for the way Earthgrains has treated its workers here.
“We urge you … to instruct your negotiators to enter into serious good faith bargaining with the BCTGM to negotiate a just and fair settlement,” wrote Ron Oswald, General Secretary of the IUF. Citing excessive overtime, the withdrawal of strikers’ medical benefits and “Earthgrains refusal to refrain from anti-union activities,” Oswald questioned Earthgrains’ stated commitment to improved labor relations throughout the company. Earthgrains has bakery operations in Spain, France and Portugal.
The leader of food workers in one of those countries, Jorge Santos, General Secretary of Portugal’s SETAA expressed that union’s “deep concern with the bargaining position of your company that has forced thousands of union workers to go on strike,” in a September 13 letter. Santos told Beracha that the union was “prepared to inform the Portuguese media and the workers employed at your bakery in Portugal” of SETAA’s solidarity with U.S. workers. The union followed up on that advisory by leafleting at Earthgrains’ Bimbo bakery in Albergaria, Portugal and at two distribution centers. Workers were provided with information about the struggle in the U.S. SETAA also accused Earthgrains of violating basic labor rights and conventions of the International Labor Organization in some of its European operations.
Food workers unions in Spain and France and elsewhere are also being kept informed of developments in the strike by the IUF.
“We are grateful for the statements of support from our brothers and sisters abroad,” said BCTGM President Frank Hurt. “Food workers in Europe know full well that they will be treated in the future the way Earthgrains is treating its American workers today. They therefore have an interest in supporting our members on the picket lines,” Hurt noted. Hurt also serves as President of the IUF.
IUF (The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations) is a worldwide federation of trade unions representing workers employed in: agriculture, the manufacture of food and beverages, all stages of tobacco processing and the hotel, restaurant, catering services and the tourism industries. IUF has 326 member organizations in 118 countries representing approximately 10 million workers. More about the IUF can be found at www.iuf.org.
SETAA (Sindicato da Agricultura Alimenticao E Floristas) is a national union in Portugal, an affiliate of the UGT (Union Geral des Trabalhadores) central, and represents about 17,000 workers, of which 7,500 work in agriculture, fishing and forestry and 9,500 in the food industry.