On Thursday January 24, 2013, over 80 Focus on the Food Chain members, friends and allies gathered on a frigid night on the sidewalk in front of Tortilleria Chinantla for a candlelight vigil to remember the life of Juan Baten and to call on the City and Goldman Sachs to incorporate standards and transparency in a new loan program targeted at food manufacturers.
Justice for Juan Baten from Tortilleria Chinantla
Focus on the Food Chain has been hard at work seeking justice in the crushing death of Juan Baten, who was killed while working in a Brooklyn tortilla factory. We've been working closely with Juan's widow, Rosario, to honor Juan's memory, hold his employer accountable, and to do everything in our power to make sure such a tragedy isn't repeated in New York's food supply chain.
This Thursday, January 24th will mark the second anniversary of the death of Juan Baten at the Tortilleria Chinantla tortilla factory in Brooklyn. At 5:00 in the evening, we will be gathering for a public candlelight vigil in front of the factory, which is located at 975 Grand Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
Sentencing for Erasmo Ponce, the owner of Tortilleria Chinantla, has been delayed until July 8, 2013. Ponce was due to be sentenced in early January for workplace crimes uncovered after the death of Juan Baten. On January 24, 2011, Juan Baten was crushed to death by a tortilla dough mixing machine. A simple, inexpensive, and legally mandated machine guard would have saved Juan Baten's life. Erasmo Ponce pleaded guilty in June 2012 to payroll and workers compensation violations. He is expected to receive 90 days in jail and pay $400,000 in restitution.
The owner of a Brooklyn tortilla factory where a worker was crushed to death has been charged with filing false tax documents and not paying employees overtime. Erasmo Ponce, who is also accused of not paying for worker’s compensation insurance, was arrested Tuesday and released without bail. He could not be reached for comment on the charges brought by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Focus on the Food Chain is very gratified that tortilla factory owner Erasmo Ponce has been brought to justice in a case stemming from the workplace death of Juan Baten. While nothing will bring Juan Baten back to his widow and daughter, this arrest is an important step forward toward accountability in New York City's food processing industry, where reckless disregard for worker health & safety is increasingly the norm. Juan Baten started working at the Chinantla tortilla factory at age sixteen, working as much as twelve hours a day, six days a week. OSHA, the federal workplace safety agency, concluded that Mr. Baten would not have been crushed to death in a mixing machine had the employer installed a simple and legally required machine guard.
Focus on the Food Chain has been hard at work seeking justice in the crushing death of Juan Baten, who was killed just over a year ago in a Brooklyn tortilla factory. We've been working closely with Juan's widow, Rosario, to honor Juan's memory, hold his employer accountable, and to do everything in our power to make sure such a tragedy isn't repeated in New York's food supply chain.
Rosario Ramirez lost her husband Juan Baten after he was crushed to death at a Brooklyn tortilla factory.
Rosario and her seven-month old daughter are in need of financial support to avoid eviction, put food on the table, and keep the utilities on.
Please take a moment to make an online contribution and help ensure Rosario and her daughter can persevere through these days of grief.
When many people think of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it's the fashionable boutiques, music scene, and hip bars that come to mind. But for thousands of recent immigrants, the eastern section of Williamsburg is where you go to find work in food processing and distribution factories that service many of New York City's markets and restaurants. If you've ever eaten a meal in New York, you can be assured that you've consumed food that has been produced and distributed through one of these food companies and those in a few adjacent neighborhoods.
We are deeply saddened by the killing early this morning of a young immigrant worker, Juan Baten, at a non-union Brooklyn food processing facility, and are extremely concerned about how workplace conditions may have led to his death. While it's too soon to make specific conclusions about the crushing death at the Chinantla tortilla factory, Focus on the Food Chain organizers report that the workplace appears emblematic of the adverse conditions facing immigrant workers in a large swath of processing and distribution companies that supply food products to many of New York City's markets and restaurants.