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Another Chicago Tortilla Maker Is Accused of Ignoring Poor Working Conditions

Plus, Mars Wrigley invests $40 million to make the Twix of tomorrow

Alma Sanchez, left, an El Milagro worker at the 31st Street Plant, speakers to reporters during a press conference outside El Milagro’s headquarters located at 3048 West. 26th Street, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
El Milagro workers gather in September 2021.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The improvements in working conditions for employees at El Milagro have left other tortillería workers wondering if labor organizing could have the same impact for them. Case in point: The workers behind El Ranchero, the popular corn chip company distributed to grocery stores around Chicago, are the latest to push management for improvements.

Workers for El Ranchero’s parent company, Authentico Foods, have a list of complaints similar to what El Milagro workers shared: low pay, not enough breaks, and abusive managers. Two weeks ago, workers held a news conference backed by Arise Chicago, the same pro-labor group that helped organized El Milagro. The companies’ low-wage workforces are similar: Most are from immigrant communities and many only speak Spanish. These groups are historically vulnerable to poor working conditions and lack the clout to convince their employers to improve. This has worsened during the pandemic.

El Milagro workers have inspired Authentico workers with their campaign. The company has two plants in Archer Heights and another in Brighton Park, all on the Southwest Side. One Authentico worker, Sandra Fernández, says: “The company did not give us proper breaks, the managers were abusive and workers were afraid. But we are afraid no longer. We are standing up for our rights!”

Fernández was among three workers fired by Authentico for organizing, according to South Side Weekly. Arise has seemingly found a formula to apply pressure on El Milagro and Authentico involving press conferences, rallies, and marches, plus letters to management. If they keep in racking up wins in the public eye. Chicago could soon see more labor campaigns. It will take time, as El Milagro workers endured months of negotiations. Company management has also attempted to reduce the impact of Arise’s involvement, saying improvements had nothing to do with organizing.

A widely distributed statement attributed to Alejandro Castro, president and CEO of Authentico Foods, reads: “We don’t comment on employee concerns. We have an open-door policy through which our employees are welcome and encouraged to discuss and resolve their concerns with management. We value our employees and always have their best interests in mind.”

Hagen’s Fish Market mourns co-owner’s death

Earlier in April, the owner of Hagen’s Fish Market — the seafood shop in Portage Park — died. Don Breede, 77, died on April 14 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He started working for his family’s business in the ‘70s, according to Block Club Chicago.

Mars Wrigley makes moves on Goose Island

With development around Goose Island kicking into full gear, including the August debut of the Salt Shed (from owners of Revival Food Hall, Dusek’s. and Pizza Friendly Pizza) at the former Morton salt plant, candy behemoth Mars Wrigley is adding to its campus off the river between North and Division. The company announced a $40 million research and development facility to develop the next generation in snacks and candies. The Trib has the full story.

Tribune critics seemingly shift away from star ratings

The Tribune’s dining critics are all over the place, this time reviewing the food at Funeral Potatoes, the virtual restaurant that used social media to take orders and that popped up during the pandemic. Louisa Chu gives the operation a curious rating: “Excellent.” There’s no stars, something that hasn’t appeared in the Trib’s previous two reviews. Veggie House was the last starred review on March 28.

The Trib is just experimenting with formats, says co-critic Nick Kinselsperger. There’s no need for a big announcement, he writes via email. Some reviews, on occasion, will run without stars. The removal of stars represents another change in how restaurant reviews are transforming. Perhaps it’s a way to even out the playing field instead of using the same scale to compare a fine dining restaurant with an establishment with counter service. It’s something that other papers across the country have done, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle.

Pizza Friendly Pizza

1039 North Western Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 395-2483 Visit Website

Morton Salt

444 West Lake Street, , IL 60606 (312) 807-2000 Visit Website

Revival Food Hall

125 South Clark Street, , IL 60603 (312) 278-3040 Visit Website