Photo: Rabbi Sheldon Lewis
Rabbi Sheldon Lewis joined Members of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, the Jeremiah Fellowship, Mexican supermarket (or mercado) workers and union organizers protest the firing of 300 workers by the Mexican market chain, Mi Pueblo. They sang and protested inside an Oakland California store, and then picketed outside it.
An estimated 10,000 mercado workers work in the Bay Area and most are recent immigrants from Latin America and Asia. Workers lack proper meal and rest breaks, earn poverty wages, and often endure abuse. Benefits such as paid vacations and holidays, medical coverage, and pension plans are practically nonexistent. Overtime and double-time pay violations are common.
Mercado workers are organizing the Mercado Workers Association to take action to improve work conditions. Together with Local 5 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, they demand that Mi Pueblo’s owners and other markets agree to the Mercado Code of Conduct, which includes:
- Markets will pay no less than the minimum wage and abide by all state and federal laws regarding overtime, breaks and lunch periods, and health and safety.
- Markets will pay in a timely manner with a written record of hours worked, earnings and deductions.
- Workers with a year on the job shall receive at least two days of paid sick leave and five days of paid vacation per year.
- Markets will not discriminate against any employee, and will not retaliate against workers by making them re-verify their work authorization status.
- Markets won’t fire or retaliate against workers for filing complaints under this Code or with a government agency over violations of their rights.
- Markets will abide by fair business, advertising and food safety standards.
- A market representative will attend at least one class on employment rights and standards.
- Markets will recognize workers’ right to join a union of their own choosing, will not retaliate against them, will remain neutral about union representation, and will voluntarily recognize any union workers choose.
- Markets will post this Code in English and the primary languages of workers and will agree to monitoring of their compliance.