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Vol. 76/No. 4      January 30, 2012

Texas mill workers’ strike
in 9th month, ‘In it to win’
SAN ANTONIO—“Being strong when you are on strike is the order of the day,” said Jack Bustos while on picket duty here Jan. 13 outside C.H. Guenther & Sons Pioneer Flour Mill.

“We had no choice but to stand up,” said Bustos, who was making less than $15 an hour after 30 years at the mill, when the company reopened Teamster Local 657’s contract last April to triple the flour workers’ health insurance payments.

“We’ve been out here for almost nine months and the company hasn’t come to us with anything,” said Steve Prieto, who has worked at the mill for 33 years. “They have to come up with something good before we can go back. We’re sure not going to beg.”

The strikers have maintained their pickets since April 25. They are not eligible for any state benefits. Simon Cantu, a miller for 32 years, explained that many of the more than 90 strikers have had to get jobs to support themselves. “I’m making less than $10 an hour at a temporary job,” he said, “but I come here when I’m not at work.”

Talking with picketers on South Alamo Street, this worker correspondent could hear cars, trucks, busses and even tourist trolleys honking in support of the strikers. Workers say that they have gotten support from steel mill, pipeline, and delivery workers, nurses and others and that they welcome all support.

Pioneer is running production with replacement and other nonunion workers. “The company would like to get the union out altogether,” said Jerry Hernandez. “In 2005 they got the mechanics to break from the union by promising them a separate, superior benefits package. That hurt. Still does.”

“The bosses are always talking against the union, telling people they shouldn’t join,” Hernandez continued. “Without it we’d just be at their mercy as individuals. I know. They tried to fire me twice.”

Joe Maldonado thought strikers had learned a lot over the past several months. “Guenther talks family this and family that, as if we are all one big family. They are big on what they call ‘Family Values.’ But we can all see their real values now.”

As he picked up his sign to join the line Ernest Herrera joined in the discussion, “We’re staying here,” he declared. “We’re in it to win.”

The Teamsters have set up a General Assistance Fund to aid the strikers. Checks can be made out and sent to Teamsters Local 657, 8214 Roughrider Dr., San Antonio, TX 78239.
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