On Friday, August 14th 2020, the Voces de la Frontera Essential Workers Rights Network hosted a press conference outside the Voces de la Frontera office in Walker’s Point to publicly announce the Strauss Workers Settlement with Strass Brands, Inc. You can watch the full recorded press conference here on our Voces YouTube channel.
This is an update outlining the details of this victory. These workers received a total cash settlement of $264,000, to be divided among the 28 workers. Each worker is entitled to four days of pay per each year that they worked for Strauss. To put that in perspective, most of these workers had worked for Strauss for over a decade, with the median length being 15 years and the maximum at 23 years. Furthermore, each worker additionally received their unused vacation pay from 2020 and their projected vacation pay for 2021. These 28 workers chose not to be reinstated at Strauss. Although the agreement is far from perfect, these workers see important justice in the cash settlement.
Deny Alvarado, the 29th terminated worker, was not included in this settlement agreement because he was a whistle blower supervisor and so was not protected by the union agreement. We want to highlight that he was also terminated for being a whistle blower about Strauss’ lack of COVID-19 protections. He is a single father with a child with asthma, and was equally concerned about the potential health impacts on his family as the line workers. Alvarado worked loyally for Strauss for 17 years, and we see it as unacceptable that he is not receiving just compensation along with the line workers. Although we could not include Alvarado in this settlement agreement, we are working to see how we can still support him. One key way we are doing this is continuing to put pressure on Strauss to enforce OSHA-CDC guidelines for COVID-19 protections in the workplace.
We want to highlight that this labor victory was made possible because of the tireless organizing and strong leadership of the Strauss workers themselves. These essential workers are the true heroes. Through the Voces de la Frontera Essential Workers Right Network, these workers were able to engage the larger community in direct public action. They were able to be united, strong, and stand up for their inherent dignity. Essential workers in the Voces network and the larger community send a strong message to the public with this Strauss settlement agreement: workers’ lives matter and we will fight for them to be protected.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera, said:
“There were three things that led us to victory. The first was the leadership of these workers and their co-workers. Without them, there could have been no change. The second is the dignity and safety that they demanded, for themselves and for their families. And the third is support that we were able to get from the general community. We did direct action, we protested, and we made it public.
In every fight that the Essential Workers Rights Network is organizing, we see progress when these three things are present: unity, dignity, and strong public community support. We invite others to join the Voces Essential Workers Rights Network. We will be putting on trainings, starting on August 23rd, so that other workers can have the protections and the safety that they deserve.”
For more information, reach out to Communications Director Jacquelyn Kovarik at vdlf.org or 414-436-9822.