By ANN MONTAGUE
On June 20, 691 PepsiCo workers in Buenos Aires arrived at work to see a piece of paper on the door notifying them that the plant was being relocated and they were all out of a job. In Argentina it is illegal to just close a factory and lay off workers. Companies have to show that they have had financial problems for three years and prove what they have done to protect the jobs of the workers affected.
The workers voted to take over the plant, blocked the entrance to the factory, and demanded their jobs back.
PepsiCo is the second largest food and beverage company in the world. Last year, PepsiCo saw a 26.3% growth in sales in Argentina with an income of $4.8 billion. The company announced the relocation of its snack production to a factory in Mar del Plata, a city 250 miles from Buenos Aires. Only 155 workers were offered jobs at the new location. The workers believe the real reason for the relocation is the strength of the workers’ organization in Buenos Aires, both within and without the factory at its present location.
In Argentina workers organizations are rooted in the workplace. Workers in each workplace are elected to represent the workers in negotiations with their bosses in each factory. Those elections determine the direction of their organization. Different groups run for leadership positions. Some are closer to management and some are closer to the workers.
La Lista Bordo is a left caucus that includes the PTS (Socialist Workers Party) as well as independent workers in the factory. They have won elections for the last several years and they believe the closure is a direct violation of their organization.
A major solidarity campaign exists within and without Argentina.
They are receiving support from other factories, and also over 200 intellectuals and educators have joined the growing movement against Pepsico #NoALosDespidosEnPepsico (No to the PepsiCo dismissals). In the United States, workers have been signing petitions to PepsiCo and using social media to give visibility to the struggle in Argentina.
On July 18, a demonstration of 30,000 people in support for the 691 workers taking on the U.S. multinational corporation took place in Buenos Aires. Unions, student organizations from the University of Buenos Aires, members of the feminist #NiUnaMenos, the political parties of the Left Front and many others took part. Participants marched to the front of the National Congress, where organizers have set up a large tent.
The demonstration protested the violent eviction of the workers from their workplace five days earlier. The same day the court ruled that the closure of the factory was illegal due to lack of paperwork justifying an economic crisis for the factory and the incorrect filing of a Crisis Prevention Procedure. The court ordered the workers reinstated.
The organizers are expecting PepsiCo to appeal; the protest continues. The tent will serve as a center for organizing for the PepsiCo workers and all workers who are victims of government austerity measures.
Top photo by Lubertino