Approximately 30,000 people gathered at the base of the Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires on Tuesday to march for the laid-off workers of a closed PepsiCo factory. Workers, supporters, unionists and politicians marched peacefully through the downtown area before arriving in front of Congress where organizers set up a large tent. Shop-floor representative of the PepsiCo workers Camilo Mones stated that the tent would serve as a base in “continuing the fight.”
The march demanded the reinstatement of over 600 workers in a factory of the multinational corporation and producer of countless snack products, PepsiCo. The workers discovered they had lost their jobs by way of a note on the door of the closed factory on the morning of June 20th. PepsiCo decided to move their production from the plant in northern Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata, where there is little rank and file organization of the workers. At the Buenos Aires plant, the shop floor commission is led by workers who are in the Trotskyist Partido de Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS) as well as being led by combative, independent workers. The anti-bureaucratic shop floor committee organized workers organized regular assemblies where workers voted to fight for better conditions on the job, as well as solidarity with movements like the International Women’s Strike and Ni Una Menos. This is why PepsiCo wants to shut down this particular factory.
Photo by Matías Baglietto
When faced with losing their jobs, the workers didn’t give up so easily, taking over the factory and setting up an occupation. They also protested the closure throughout the following month and raised awareness of their plight.
On Thursday July 13th, the workers and their supporters were violently evicted from the factory, bringing an even greater outpouring of support from the city, the nation and the international community. The PepsiCo struggle was on the cover of many major newspapers, often running favorable stories about the workers struggle. On the same day, a Division 6 court ruled that the closure was illegal due to a lack of proper paperwork demonstrating an economic crisis for the factory and incorrectly filing of Crisis Prevention Procedure. The court then ordered that the workers be reinstated. The results of the court case are yet to be seen, as PepsiCo is likely to appeal the decision. In the meantime, organizers in support of PepsiCo continue to protest.
Many unions, organizations and political parties were represented in the march on Tuesday, as well as unaffiliated supporters, journalists and activists. Some groups included the Central de Trabajadores (CTA), Suteba, the Education Workers Union (UTE), the State Workers Association (ATE), student organizations from the University of Buenos Aires, members of the #NiUnaMenos movement, workers from factories of other multinational corporations, students from the University of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, the Frente Milagro Sala, the Labor Lawyers Association, the political parties of the Left Front and the Socialist Workers, and many others. This represents a united front of different workers organizations and unions in defense of PepsiCo workers.
At the front of the march were PepsiCo workers, particularly a group of women workers who have come to be known as the “lionesses” of PepsiCo. Alongside them marched one of the Madres de La Plaza de Mayo. Cecilia, a fired PepsiCo worker said, “I have been at PepsiCo for 20 years. At first it just had three production lines and now it has 6. This means the company grew and it grew at our expense, it grew on our backs and because of our labor.” She went on to say to the crowd, “This struggle is not just for us. It is for all of those who have been fired in this country.”
Not one more of us without a job
The March ended in front of the National Congress, where the workers set up a tent that will serve as a center for organizing the struggle not only of PepsiCo workers, but of the workers who have been relentlessly attacked by government austerity measures and by company layoffs. Workers and their supporters will be there 24 hours a day.
The march showed the ongoing support for workers the of PepsiCo and workers all over the world. It demonstrates that the resolute actions of workers, against all odds, can find support in massive numbers of people and put a real fight against firings and austerity.
However, the war is not over. For now, the workers and their supporters continue to fight. #TodosSomosPepsico.