FRESNO, Calif. — After a month and a half on the picket line, the 40 workers on strike at the Corn Nuts plant here remain determined to win a union contract that includes affordable medical insurance. They’re members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union Local 85.
“We are more united than when we started — Hormel underestimated us,” striker Larry Cuevas, told this Militant worker-correspondent at the picket tent Oct. 2. The plant is the only one in the country that produces the popular snack.
When Hormel bought the Corn Nuts factory from Kraft Heinz in June 2021, the international food conglomerate bosses refused to negotiate with the union and replaced its health plan with one substantially inferior.
As a result, striker Lulu Castro said, she now has thousands of dollars of medical debts. Her picket sign read, “Workers for Affordable Healthcare.”
Local 85 Financial Secretary Jerry Gil and International Business Agent/Organizer Alejandro Ahumada described how 13 emergency vehicles had to be called in to respond to a fire in the plant Sept. 30, after untrained and inexperienced strikebreakers lost control of the roasting process. Dangerous levels of carbon dioxide triggered alarms, forcing a complete evacuation of the plant.
Cuevas, who has worked there for 33 years, said too much carbon dioxide in the confined space of the plant can displace the oxygen needed for breathing and be deadly.
The strikers have been encouraged by the support they’ve gotten from Teamster truck drivers, who have honored their picket lines and refuse to make deliveries. Locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, whose members work for Hormel at plants in Georgia, Minnesota and elsewhere, have lent their weight to the strike, demanding Hormel settle with the BCTGM. UFCW workers at Hormel face contract negotiations in the coming months.
BCTGM President Anthony Shelton and Secretary-Treasurer David Woods came here to picket with strikers for two days in September.
The strikers need all the help they can get! Join the picket line and drop off supplies at 4343 E. Florence Avenue in Fresno. Donate to Local 85’s Strike Fund/GoFundMe page. Send messages of support to Jerry Gil at Jerry@BakersUnion85.com. Follow the strike on the BCTGM website, its Facebook page and #CornNutsStrike.