FEDERAL JUDGE ISSUES TEMPORARY
INJUNCTION AGAINST SANTA FE TORTILLA COMPANY
Orders Immediate Reinstatement of Workers
Fired for Complaining about Harassment and Safety Problems
August 14, 2013
SANTA FE--Today, two workers fired from the Santa Fe Tortilla Company (SFTC) are back at work after a federal judge granted a temporary injunction against the employer and ordered the workers' immediate re-instatement. In a case brought by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), US District Judge Robert C. Brack found last week that there was reasonable cause to believe that Yolanda Galiviz and Delfina Bruno were fired because they organized for better working conditions, an activity protected under the National Labor Relations Act, and that their termination led to intimidation of other employees. (To see order click here. To see decision click here)
This was a welcome decision for Galaviz and Bruno who were terminated in August, 2012 after they formed a committee to complain about sexual harassment, unsafe conditions, verbal abuse, and no bathroom breaks. Among other concerns, committee members said they were required to use substandard equipment resulting in injuries and to sign documents that they had received safety training when they had not. They also cited repeated name calling by supervisors who would refer to them as "donkeys" and "lazy old women."
The workers eventually received health and safety training after filing a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Santa Fe Tortilla was fined $3,000 by the federal agency), but the company fired Bruno and Galaviz and punished other committee members by moving them to more work intensive machinery. Galaviz, Bruno and other employees won a judgment last month for reinstatement, back wages, and restoration of former job positions by an NLRB Administrative Law Judge, a decision currently being appealed. But Judge Brack's temporary injunction enabled reinstatement of the fired workers during the lengthy appeals process. Only in rare cases does the NLRB seek injunctive relief in federal court--cases in which the employers' actions are so egregious that without relief, employees will not exercise their right to organize while the case makes its way through the administrative process.
"It has taken a year for us to get our jobs back, but today we walked in with our heads held high feeling vindicated," said Delfina Bruno who worked at SFTC for three years before being terminated. "We are eager to get back to work and continue organizing with our co-workers for a safe and respectful work environment. We want all workers in Santa Fe to know that even if we are not part of a union, we have the right to organize against abuses in the workplace."
Worksite committees organized by the United Worker Center of New Mexico (UWC), an initiative of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, have successfully filed nine charges with the NLRB and have recuperated over a half a million dollars in back pay and settlement monies.
UWC community organizer Alma Castro said on Wednesday "We hope that this serves as a lesson to other bad apple employers that workers in Santa Fe can and will stand up for their rights. All workers should know that if they complain about workplace violations collectively, they are protected under the law."
"We are good workers and we do not deserve abuse and humiliation," said Lilian Lopez, a member of the Worker's Committee who still works at the tortilla factory. "We will keep fighting to improve wages and conditions for all workers at Santa Fe Tortilla."
The worker's committee is now part of a campaign to extend Santa Fe's Living Wage to the County. Committee workers make between $8 and $9 per hour, not $10.51, because the company is located outside the city limits.
The SFTC Worker's Committee members will join other Somos members and Labor leaders on Wednesday at the UWC (1804 Espinacitas St. Santa Fe, NM) at 5:30 PM. For interviews with members of the worker's committee, call Alma Castro at (216) 906-9215.
The United Worker Center (UWC) opened on May 1st, 2012 to inform and organize non-union low wage workers.
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