Remembering Juan Baten as We Organize for Safe, Dignified Jobs

Eight years ago today, Juan Baten was killed by his employer’s negligence in a mixing machine installed without the required safety guard at Tortillería Chinantla in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Juan had spent 6 years since arriving from Guatemala at the age of 16 working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for low wages.

Juan Baten’s partner, Rosario Ramirez, chose to speak out after the tragedy and seek the highest degree of justice for Juan’s death. Rosario and the workers of Tortilleria Chinantla won the wages that had been stolen from them, safety repairs, and worker’s compensation for Rosario and Juan’s daughter until adulthood, while spurring a citywide investigation of working conditions in tortillerías.

Workplace safety in food processing is still a problem today. Official U.S. government data on job injuries show that food system workers are hurt or injured at much higher rates than other workers. A 2015 study at Emory University showed that injuries that required time off work were more than twice as frequent among food workers, and the risk of occupational death was 9.5 times higher than in non-food jobs.

When workers lack a collective voice on the job and power to determine how the workplace is set up, worker safety will continue to be sacrificed.

Today, Brandworkers members continue to take action in food factories to secure the dignified and safe jobs we all deserve. You can join them in solidarity and honor Juan Baten’s life by volunteering to support their efforts in any way you can.