Statement on the Arrest of Tortilla Factory Owner Erasmo Ponce
For Immediate Release:
Contact: press (at) brandworkers.org
"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. In addition to the egregious health & safety violations, Chinantla and Ponce subjected workers including Mr. Baten to large-scale wage theft, defrauded the workers compensation system, and falsified business records. Mr. Ponce faces multiple felony counts of falsifying business documents and filing false documents with the government, among other charges. We look forward to a successful prosecution of Mr. Ponce to provide a measure of comfort to Juan Baten's family and to ensure that such a grievous tragedy never happens again in New York City's food processing industry."
Brandworkers is a Queens-based non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food employees. Our Focus on the Food Chain program, conducted with the NYC IWW labor union, is a worker-led effort to challenge and overcome unlawful conditions in New York City's food processing and distribution industry.