A Chicago-based tortilla processor has apparently locked its employees out of its plant a day after they engaged in a spontaneous work stoppage.
El Milagro, a popular regional tortilla manufacturer, got hit with a walkout on Sept. 23 at its plant in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. Employees protested working conditions that they say have been bad for years and have worsened during the pandemic. According to one of the walkout’s leaders, 85 El Milagro workers have contracted COVID, and five have died. Other complaints include sexual harassment, being forced to work seven days straight and having to deal with increased line speeds.
After the work stoppage, the employees tried to go back to work the following day but were locked out of the facility. The El Milagro workers are not represented by a union, but they have been getting assistance from a local labor rights group.
Some retailers in the Chicago area have been running out of El Milagro products and rationing purchases. El Milagro said in a statement that “the temporary shortage of tortillas is due to the state of conditions within the national supply chain” and that “we value our staff and pay competitive wages.”
El Milagro, a privately held company, owns another Chicago plant, one in Texas, and several restaurants.
Update to this story: On the evening of Friday, September 24, it was reported by at least one local news outlet that employees were able to return to work.