Police Evict Kraft Workers from Factory in Argentina

Argentinean workers took over their cookie factory August 18 in response to intensifying attacks from their employer, Kraft Foods. The workers camped inside their plant for almost six weeks until police forced them out.

About 3,000 Buenos Aires workers have been brawling with Kraft since the summer, as multiple roadblocks, actions at government and corporate buildings, and a strike built up to the plant occupation (such actions have been a regular occurrence in Argentina since the country’s 2001 financial collapse).

Kraft Foods purchased Argentina’s biggest cookie and cracker manufacturer, Terrabusi, in 2004. Now, the company’s embrace of 12-hour shifts and temp workers, coupled with a refusal to resolve workers’ health and safety concerns, is fueling their anger.

Workers demanded basic workplace protections against the spreading H1N1 swine flu, insisting that Kraft follow government guidelines, including granting pregnant women and mothers leave. Kraft instead shuttered the company daycare center and refused time off to pregnant employees and sick workers. Workers struck in response, demanding their right to sick leave as co-workers fell ill and workplaces and schools closed around the nation.

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The Illinois-based corporation responded by firing 160 workers, targeting especially union delegates and representatives. Workers hit back with a series of road blockades and a 40-day work stoppage that culminated in laid-off workers staging a factory takeover.

Weeks later Argentineans witnessed the ensuing police attack live on national television, as police dogs, teargas, and rubber bullets were aimed at workers. Workers were forcibly evicted and since then, the plant has had a constant police presence as production has slowly restarted.

A broad range of supporters, including student and human rights groups, are protesting in solidarity with the Kraft workers throughout Argentina. Join them and email your protests to Irene Rosenfeld, chair of Kraft Foods, at Irene [dot] Rosenfeld [at] Kraft [dot] com. Copy solidarity messages to trabajadoresdeterrabusi [at] gmail [dot] com.

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #368, November 2009. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.