Nabisco Workers Strike across US

Photo: Nabisco workers on strike in Portland (Source: @nwlaborpress on twitter)

By Sarah Ahmed

Last week, 200 Nabisco workers with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union went on strike at a bakery in Portland, Oregon, protesting a contract that would drastically cut overtime pay and healthcare benefits. Since then, Nabisco workers in Chicago, Aurora, and Richmond have joined the strike.

Frito-Lay workers from Topeka ordered food for Nabisco workers in support of the strike, and workers with other unions, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Teamsters, all of whom also work for Nabisco, are staying home in solidarity.

The workers’ last contract, which ended on June 1, included overtime pay for weekends and a health insurance plan with no deductible. Nabisco workers did not have a contract between 2018 and 2020, and the workers’ pension was cut in 2018 in favor of a 401k account. The new contract proposed by Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, would cut weekend overtime pay and come with a high-deductible healthcare plan for new employees. 

With the proposed contract, workers on high-demand lines would work a schedule of three to four 12-hour shifts per week without overtime pay. A Portland worker told Tribune that the contract is misleading because all production lines are high demand. Workers would stand to lose up to $40,000 per year with the new contract.  

The worker told Tribune that it is common for him and his coworkers to work 25 days in a row without a day off.  During peak production, if a worker has already agreed to 12-hour shift, the company can force the worker into 15-hour shifts.

Striking Nabisco workers in Chicago (Source: Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union)

Workers are receiving $105 per week in strike benefits. The worker told Tribune that he has had to rely on his own savings to survive during the strike, and that many of his coworkers are looking for temporary work to stay afloat.

The company has hired Huffmaster Crisis Response to provide security and strikebreakers during the strike. Strikebreakers are paid $30 per hour for packing and $60 per hour for electrician work, in addition to being provided with paid hotels, airfare, and per diem for meals. Nabisco has also been hiring temp workers, using the pandemic as an excuse, and the union has allowed it.

Mondelez’ revenue increased by 2.8% in 2020 compared to the previous year, reaching $26.6 billion. The company employed approximately 79,000 workers last year, with about 12,000 of them in the United States. According to the worker, Nabisco upgraded a production line at the Portland factory earlier this year and forced workers to work overtime under the guise that the Fairlawn, New Jersey plant couldn’t keep up with demand. Once the new line was running, Nabisco announced that they were closing the bakeries in both Fairlawn and Atlanta.  

“They lie constantly,” the worker said.  Mondelez has three bakeries left in the United States, in Chicago, Portland, and Richmondthe Aurora facility is for distribution.

In 2016, Mondelez cut 9 of 16 production lines in Chicago and built four new production lines in Salinas, Mexico, where workers are only paid $0.97 to $1.15 per hour. Union workers in the United States typically start at $20 per hour for packing and $45 per hour for electrician work. Monopoly media has sought to pit workers against each other, while obscuring the fact that it is the imperialist monopolies who move factories to the third world in order to take advantage of lower labor costs and reap superprofits.

Rather than animosity, the Portland worker who spoke with Tribune expressed solidarity with Nabisco workers in Mexico. “They are not our enemy,” he said. “Everyone should be able to have a good job. Mondelez made record profits off all of us. I hope they get inspired by our fight to do the same when the time comes.”

“We feel that Mondelez will break,” the worker said. “They underestimate us greatly.”

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