Truthout - September 3, 2021
Confronted with management’s burdensome demands for contract concessions, Nabisco workers in Portland, Oregon, instigated a strike last month that has rapidly taken on national proportions. On August 10, around 200 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM) Local 364 walked off the job at the industrial bakery. Since then, the workforces of every Nabisco production and distribution facility in the country have followed suit, a coordinated action years in the making. The strikers have drawn on the radical energies of a recently resurgent labor movement in the United States — a momentous upswell in a key vector of working-class power.
Sweet Deals for Executives, Scraps for Workers
Nabisco, the maker of popular processed foods like Chips Ahoy! cookies, Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers, is a subsidiary of Chicago’s Mondelēz International. When Kraft Foods split into different entities to skirt antitrust violations in 2012, its snack food business was spun off and reconstituted as Mondelēz, now a Fortune 500 company with $26 billion in yearly revenue. Mondelēz CEO Dirk Van de Put was compensated over $16 million in 2020; in 2017, he was lavished with a pay package of $42.4 million — 989 times the median pay of a Mondelēz employee. Meanwhile, management has declined to redistribute any of its pandemic profit gains; though people staying home in 2020 resulted in a major uptick in snack sales, the company has continued angling to cut overtime and healthcare benefits. Mondelēz’s single-minded focus on squeezing every possible cent from its workforce, combined with such exorbitant executive pay, has underscored disparities between workers and management, accelerating a discontentment that has been gathering strength for almost a decade.
Since Mondelēz assumed ownership of Nabisco in 2012, longtime workers claim, working conditions have deteriorated, sacrificed to management’s ever-more relentless drive for profits. In the background are ambient threats of outsourcing and job loss: The company halved its union workforce earlier this year, with plant closures in Fairlawn, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Georgia, and the union has had to negotiate with an acute awareness that the company can make good on its threats of offshoring. Six years ago, Mondelēz transferred Oreo production from Chicago to Mexico — a move that earned it condemnation from Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders alike. ...
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