By JoAnne Powers, March 25, 2016
Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco began layoffs of workers in Chicago on Wednesday and Thursday in a move that will relocate 600 good-paying jobs to Mexico, where the minimum wage is barely four dollars a day. The first 277 workers, members of the Bakery Confectionary Tobacco and Grain Millers union, were laid off at the end of their shifts Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Members of the BCTGM and other unions protested at the front of the Chicago plant Wednesday, and the union has called for a boycott of any Nabisco products manufactured in Mexico.
Ron Baker is the union’s Strategic Campaign Coordinator.
[Ron Baker]: “These companies move across borders and across oceans. They may make their products in other places, but there’s one thing that they always come back to, and that’s the root financial structure of the United States and its consumer base. Our contention is if we can’t be part of the production of products, then we should not be part of consuming them and financially rewarding these countries for actually dismantling the middle class in America. Whether it’s a BCTGM job, a supervisor job or an IAM job, it’s still Mondelez gutting the middle class here.”
The Oreo, of course, is Nabisco’s most photogenic cookie:
[Ron Baker]: “Whenever the consumer boycott of Mexican made projects began to catch hold, their spokesman did say that it was their hope that the American consumer would not abandon their billion dollar cookie. Well, that tells you a lot about how much they make off these products, but also about their concern that the American consumer will start taking action at the cash register. We all know that the balance sheet is the most important thing to these corporations, so we can have an impact. They’re making Oreos in New Jersey. They’re making Oreos in Richmond and Atlanta. Also in Portland, Oregon. But, if they get away with sending these jobs to Mexico, and they get away with them scott free, without any financial ramifications to the corporation or an outcry by Americans, it won’t be long before they migrate all their products south of the border.”
The union is currently in contract negotiations with the company. Baker says the company is proposing replacing 20,000 workers’ defined benefit pension plans with less secure 401(k) accounts.
[Ron Baker]: “They not only want to take jobs, but they also want to reduce their already profitable position in the marketplace by actually taking away people’s retirement security.”
Mondelez has received criticism from both sides of the political aisle over its decision to move production to Mexico. Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton met with workers last week and called the company’s CEO, Irene Rosenfeld, to ask her to change her mind. Rosenfeld ignored the request:
[Ron Baker]: “Her pay and her bonuses are all dependent upon misery on people, and quite frankly she has no empathy, nor does this corporation, for anybody that has made them billions in profits for decades.”