Latino Workers Take Civil Rights Fight to Cretex Headquarters
Striking Latino employees demand a face-to-face negotiations to end workplace discrimination
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. (August 13, 2013) – A delegation of Latino employees converged upon Cretex headquarters in Elk River, Minn. earlier today to demand a meeting with the company’s leadership after their union’s request to negotiate non-discrimination language was rejected. Fifteen members of Laborers Local 563 filed Federal civil rights charges in July with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) against Cretex for its treatment of Latino workers.
“We will continue to make our presence felt here until they commit to a face-to-face discussion,” said Cretex employee Julio Ocampo Sanchez “Something needs to be done about their way Latino workers are mistreated and disrespected at this company.”
The group of 15 Cretex employees from the company’s Shakopee, Minn. facility that filed class-wide civil rights charges with the EEOC includes both immigrants from Mexico and U.S.-born Latinos. All 15 say that they have been subjected to ongoing harassment, intimidation, and unequal treatment along the following lines:
• Use of insulting and offensive language – such as statements to the effect that “Mexicans have no brains” and “Mexicans are too stupid to use computers” – and harassment of Latino immigrants for speaking to each other in Spanish during breaks.
• Unequal treatment of Latino and immigrant workers, who are assigned more difficult and dangerous work, and disciplined more frequently and more harshly than their peers.
• Attempted intimidation through threats of firing and, in some cases, threats to the person and property of Latinos.
Members of Local 563 who work at Cretex’ Shakopee, Minn. concrete plant, have been on the picket lines since June 19 when they went on strike to protest company plans to slash retirement benefits.
Negotiations broke down on June 18, when Cretex failed to budge from its unreasonable demand to eliminate pension contributions and slash workers’ retirement package by roughly 80 percent. Under the company’s proposal, employees would see hourly compensation (wage plus retirement contribution) drop by anywhere from $2.91 and $4.07 in 2013 depending on an employee’s age and the amount he or she puts into the company’s 401(k) plan. Simply put that’s the equivalent of a 12- to 17-percent pay cut at a time when demand for construction materials is on the rise.
“We just try to do our jobs and stay out trouble because we’re working toward our pension,” says Ocampo Sanchez. “Then they threaten to take it away, and suddenly the worst offender is wearing the red hat they give out to leads. It feels like a deliberate slap in the face.”
Local 563 members and leaders stand behind their members, said Tim Mackey, business manager for Local 563. “We are very disturbed by what our Latino brothers have told us about what is going on at Cretex,” he said. “No union member, no worker, no human being should have to put up with this. We have asked the company to come back to the table two weeks ago to discuss new contract language to protect our members from discrimination, harassment and intimidation. Sadly, the company has refused. We may disagree on the pension issue, but there should be no disagreement when it comes to equal protection.”
Until there is a meeting, Ocampo Sanchez and his fellow Latino workers will keep up their peaceful vigil. “We want nothing more than to go back to work and to be treated as equals,” he said. “Sometimes you have to fight and sacrifice to make things happen.”
About Local 563
Local 563 represents nearly 5,000 skilled construction craft laborers that are trained in many facets of the construction industry. These laborers apply their trade in 32 counties in Minnesota and the state of North Dakota. Local 563 is affiliated with Laborers’ International Union of North America LIUNA, based in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit the strike Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Local563WorkersOnStrike or Local 563’s micro site at http://www.cretexworkers.com
About Cretex Companies, Inc.
Cretex, established in 1917, is a privately held, diversified manufacturing company headquartered at 311 Lowell Ave. NW in Elk River, Minnesota. Cretex Concrete Products provides reinforced concrete pipe and other precast and prestressed concrete products serving the infrastructure needs of the central United States. Cretex Companies employs about 1,800 people in 35 locations in 11 states.