A delegation of Latino employees converged upon Cretex headquarters in Elk River Tuesday to demand a meeting with the company’s leadership after their union’s request to negotiate non-discrimination language was rejected. Fifteen members of Laborers Local 563 filed federal civil rights charges in July with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission against Cretex for its treatment of Latino workers.
“We will continue to make our presence felt here until they commit to a face-to-face discussion,” said Cretex employee Julio Ocampo Sanchez. “Something needs to be done about the way Latino workers are mistreated and disrespected at this company.”
The group of 15 Cretex employees from the company’s Shakopee, Minn., facility say that they have been subjected to ongoing harassment, intimidation, and unequal treatment, including the use of offensive language and threats of firing.
They are among some 40 workers who went on strike June 19 to protest company plans to slash retirement benefits.
Negotiations broke down on June 18, when Cretex failed to budge from its demand to eliminate pension contributions and slash workers’ retirement package by roughly 80 percent.
Local 563 members and leaders stand behind their members, said Tim Mackey, business manager for Local 563.
“We are very disturbed by what our Latino brothers have told us about what is going on at Cretex,” he said. “No union member, no worker, no human being should have to put up with this. We have asked the company to come back to the table two weeks ago to discuss new contract language to protect our members from discrimination, harassment and intimidation. Sadly, the company has refused. We may disagree on the pension issue, but there should be no disagreement when it comes to equal protection.”
Until there is a meeting, Ocampo Sanchez and his fellow Latino workers will keep up their peaceful vigil. “We want nothing more than to go back to work and to be treated as equals,” he said. “Sometimes you have to fight and sacrifice to make things happen.”