State Lawmaker, Mexican Consular Back Plan to Help Workers

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A Bay Area labor rights coalition for workers employed by small neighborhood “Mercado” (grocery) stores – supported by local legislators, Mexican Consular officials and community leaders – said it is now seeking to improve the working conditions of those workers, and consumer confidence in the Mercado stores.

A NEWS CONFERENCE will be held Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 11:30 a.m. at 240 S. Market Street to release details of a plan to help workers. Community leaders and lawmakers, including Joe Coto, a San Jose State Assemblyman, will participate.

According to representatives of the Justice for Mercado Workers Coalition, there is an estimated 300,000 grocery workers in the state of California of which about 30,000 are employed at local Latino and Asian grocery stores also known as Mercados.

Mercado employees may experience difficult situations due to the lack of proper meal and rest breaks, poverty wages, verbal and psychological abuse. Competitive wages and benefits such as paid vacations and holidays, medical coverage and defined pension plans, like those offered to unionized grocery workers, for the most part are not offered to Mercado employees.

The Coalition said unfair consumer practices have been found at local Mercados that could affect the health of local residents, including the sale of expired out-of-date food products. The Coalition said it hopes to end this form of consumer abuse and encourage Mercado operators to offer patrons fresh and healthy food items.

In April 2007 the Mercado campaign was in its embryonic stage. Now, a broader coalition of supporters has been assembled and the Bay Area Mercado Workers Association has been created to help workers empower themselves.

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