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Who says the party's over in Houston?
Bakers seek contract at Fiesta Mart

Pickets were out at Fiesta Mart in Houston. PHOTO BY PAUL HILL

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON - In spite of crude attempts to intimidate workers dating back to June, 2006, bakers at the Fiesta Mart Spring Branch store are still seeking a good contract. On June 30, 2006 the Bakers at Fiesta Mart voted for the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union - BCTGM, Local 163 to represent them. Negotiations started in September, 2006 and talks went well up until June, 2007. At that point, the Union asked for a 50 cents wage increase per hour, and suddenly Fiesta Mart pleaded poverty. According to the rules of the National Labor Relations Act, the Union asked to see the company's books. Fiesta Mart, Inc. refused the request and scheduled another negotiation meeting. They then told the employees that 50% of them would be laid off and company supporters then began collecting signatures to decertify the union.

Some might find this company behavior shocking, but it is a common ploy to keep the workers from having a contract. However, it is not common to have a seemingly successful store chain suddenly say they are going broke.

A rally was held on December 1, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. at the Fiesta Store on Wirt Road in Houston to support the baker's reasonable demands for a living wage. A diverse group of about 50 labor and social justice activists were there to support them. The group included men and women and it was ethnically diverse as well. People from Chicago were there to support the bakers in their effort. Union members were prominent and included people from IBEW, AFT, SEIU, UAW, flight attendants and painters unions. SEIU brought drums and beat out cadences as the crowd chanted, "We are the union, the mighty mighty union…", "Si, se peude.", "The party's over for Fiesta." Local papers with articles about the baker's struggle in Spanish and leaflets were distributed to Fiesta customers. The Houston Police Department kept reminding participants that they had to stay on the sidewalk and made a number of people move their cars.

These brave activists made a powerful statement that even in one of the most reactionary districts in the nation, union activism is at a fever pitch and solidarity among workers is very strong.

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