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Latino Workers At Santa Fe Springs Dessert Company Have Now Been On Strike For More Than A Month

People stand outside of Jon Donaire's building for a toy drive. There are toys on a table, and a sign that reads "Unete a la lucha por los derechos de los trabajadores."
Workers on strike help with the toy drive.
(Courtesy Ulisses Sanchez)
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A 44-day strike at Jon Donaire Desserts, a mass cake producer in Santa Fe Springs, is getting a boost from social media and Santa Claus. The workers, mostly immigrant Latina women, are calling for better pay, less frequent 15-hour days and more respect.

Striking employees were joined on Thursday by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor for a toy drive where Santa Claus put Jon Donaire on the naughty list. While the event had a festive tone, the underlying issues are longer than any holiday list.

The labor practices at Jon Donaire, the company behind the ice cream cakes and desserts sold at several large chains including WalMart, Coldstone and Baskin Robbins, have been called into question, in part because of a viral video about its cake quota from More Perfect Union.

A man dressed as Santa Claus holds a sign saying "Naughty list official notice" in front of the Jon Donaire business sign.
According to this Santa Claus, the naughty list now includes Jon Donaire Desserts.
(Courtsey of Ulisses Sanchez)

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What Workers Say

Julissa Marquez has worked as a cake decorator and union shop steward at Jon Donaire for about a year and a half. She says the experience has been less than pleasant.

“On an ice cream line, it is about 34 to 43 cakes per minute,” Marquez said. “It’s excruciatingly painful. I stay here because I need the income but it does not give them the right to lack on basic human rights.”

These issues led employees to strike last month. Miguel Perez, one of the lead organizers of the strike, has worked at the company for 11 years. The GoFundMe he launched for his coworkers has amassed more than $20,000 so far.

He says Jon Donaire has not negotiated in good faith with Local 37 leaders since their contract expired on July 4. Their union is managed by BCTGM International, which represents bakery and milling industries such as the workers in the Kellogg’s strike.

What The Company Says

In a statement to LAist, parent company Rich's says it has returned to the table for negotiations. It pays 90% of health care premiums, offers 38 days of paid time off and a pension plan, according to Rich’s.

“The company’s offer would retain all that and also include wage increases for each of the three years of the next contract, to ensure salaries continue to be at or above-market for similar roles in Los Angeles County,” read Rich’s statement.

Employees say their experiences tell a different story. They say some people who have worked there for more than a decade still make only $16 an hour, and that their benefits might be cut in exchange for a $2 raise. (Minimum wage in L.A. County is $15 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees).

Jon Donaire workers also say their time-off requests routinely get denied and notifications about overtime come just before the end of the day.

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Last month, during Thanksgiving, employee David Lacuanda alleges supervisors turned on sprinklers to douse people delivering turkeys to the picket line. Rich’s has denied this allegation, saying “That is simply not how we treat or have ever treated our associates.”

As bills rolled in for striking employees, the situation has become difficult, especially for workers with families. Eduardo Rios, an operator at Jon Donaire, says he doesn't make enough to afford an apartment in L.A., but he’s willing to fight for his rights.

“[Our supervisors] look at us like if we're here as a joke or we're doing this just to not come and work,” Rios says. “They say that we're family in here… but it’s embarrassing how they’re treating us.”

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