Sentencing for Owner of Tortilla Factory Where Worker Died
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.
Erasmo Ponce was brought to justice after energetic campaigning by members and allies of Brandworkers, who refused to let Juan Baten's death be ignored by the criminal justice system. Brandworkers went to Terry Gerstein, the New York State Attorney General’s Labor Bureau Chief, who understood the gravity of Ponce's misconduct and took up Mr. Baten’s case. In March 2012, Ms. Gerstein's office ordered the arrest of Erasmo Ponce, charging him and his corporation with 26 felony counts and 23 misdemeanor accounts.
Wage and safety violations are systemic in New York City's food processing and distribution sector. Brandworkers will keep the memory of Juan Baten alive and continue to fight for safer working conditions throughout the industry. On Thursday, January 24, 2013, we will remember Juan Baten with a candlelight vigil and discuss next steps towards a food system that respects human dignity. The vigil will start at 5:00 pm in front of Tortilleria Chinantla, 975 Grand Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. More details will follow in the coming weeks.