Fight for Nabisco Jobs in Chicago!

BCTGM International Union

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The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Workers International Union ( BCTGM) has been deeply committed to fighting the exploitation of workers by Mondelēz International. Our CHECK THE LABEL education campaign and the AFL-CIO-endorsed boycott of Mondelēz/Nabisco Products made in Mexico has been very successful. However, the injustice of the workers at Mondelēz’ Chicago Nabisco bakery remains.

March 23rd marks one year since the company began laying off workers from the Chicago bakery and sending their jobs to Salinas, Mexico. Now, workers toiling under exploitative  conditions in Mexico produce the formerly made-in-the U.S. Nabisco products that are shipped back to American consumers.

On March 23rd we will mark the Chicago layoffs with a DIGITAL DAY OF ACTIONthat will feature an exciting new tool to help spread a message of solidarity and tell Mondelēz that we will not give up this fight against a destructive corporate philosophy that destroys jobs and communities.

To RSVP click on this DIGITAL DAY OF ACTION that will take place exclusively through our social media channels. We are asking that you save the date and share in the Facebook and Twitter actions on March 23rd.

Many thanks on behalf of the BCTGM International Union and the Nabisco 600 Campaign.
In solidarity,

Corrina Christensen, Director of Communications & Public Relations
Michelle Ellis, Director of New Media

P.S. In addition to the BCTGM International’s blog and social media sites, be sure to visit the Nabisco 600 blogFacebook and Twitter pages to stay connected!

 

Buy Oreos Made in the USA

by Paul Garver

The Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) produced this video to promote its campaign to save the jobs of 600 workers at the Nabisco plant in Chicago.

The global food conglomerate Mondelez International, which now operates five Nabisco factories in the USA. has a history of relocating production of its bakery products from the USA and Europe to lower-wage countries.

Mondelez is opposed by a global coalition of unions cooperating through the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), which includes the BCTGM.   Last year the international union network issued a consensus statement demanding that Mondelez stop outsourcing production as part of a Screamdelez campaign demanding justice for Mondelez workers.

Mondelez

Normally international union coalitions have difficulty in supporting appeals to Buy American, which might pit workers in one country against those in another. But there are special circumstances in this case.  Production from the two Nabisco Mexican factories in Salinas and Monterey  is dedicated entirely to the North American market. The Mexican Nabisco plants have no autonomous union to represent the workers. Moreover Mondelez has used blackmail tactics against the BCTGM Chicago local demanding concessions that would amount to  60% pay cut as the condition of not shifting several production lines from Chicago to Salinas.  .

The BCTGM’s campaign is being supported by prominent Mexican-American Chicago politician Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and by a rally addressed by former CWA president Larry Cohen, now a leader of Labor for Bernie. However only vocal and continued consumer support for the campaign might put enough pressure on Mondelez to save several hundred crucial industrial jobs in Chicago.

 

 

 

Mondelez Girds for War against U.S. Bakery Workers

by Paul Garver

mondelezshareholder  2013, BCTGM Members in Chicago Demonstrate Solidarity with Mondelez workers facing oppression in Egypt, Pakistan and Tunisia

You may have never heard of a global snack food conglomerate called Mondelez.   You will be hearing more about it over the next few months.

Through a series of global mergers,  Mondelez became the parent corporation of Nabisco (Oreos, Chip Ahoys, Ritz Crackers, etc.).  Nabisco used to operate dozens of factories in the USA, but has closed all but five of them to improve corporate profit margins. Two  factories in Monterrey and Salinas, Mexico, also produce for the U.S. market. I used to live across the street from a Nabisco factory  producing crackers and appetizing smells in Pittsburgh. This factory closed down despite a long union and community struggle to keep its doors open through new ownership.

The remaining Nabisco industrial bakeries in the USA are located in Atlanta (GA), Richmond (VA), Fairlawn (NJ), Portland (OR), with its largest one located on the southwest side of  Chicago (IL).

The huge multi-story Nabisco factory in Chicago has employed generations of workers.  Currently it employs some 1200 workers, the large majority of whom are African-American or Hispanic, over forty years old, and with many decades of service to Nabisco.

Nabisco workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which for several decades had been able to negotiate decent collective bargaining agreements with previous owners of Nabisco.

Mondelez recently sent out pink slips laying off 277 union workers at the Chicago plant, first installment of the announced 600 layoffs.  In advance of the national collective bargaining round that began this month (February 2016), the company demanded $46 million in annual concessions in perpetuity as the price of not moving four major production lines from Chicago to Salinas.  The union calculated that would mean a 60% reduction in union wages and benefits in Chicago, and refused.  Mondelez is now heavily investing at Salinas and the transfer of production to Salinas is now underway.

The BCTGM is trying to organize community and political support in Chicago to protect its members and their community.  However the odds of success appear stacked against them.   Job security has become the key issue in the national negotiations between Nabisco and the BCTGM, in which the company is also trying to eliminate the multi-employer BCTGM pension plan for all plants.

Leading the union negotiating team is former Chicago Nabisco worker Jethro Head, now an International Vice-President for the BCTGM.  He points out that that the company introduced its bargaining position by blaming the workers and their union of hindering the global competitiveness of Mondelez, and thereby standing in the way of the necessary investments in efficiency.

Ominously Mondelez seems to be preparing for a long confrontation with the union.

According to a report in the US union-supported Northwest Labor Press (click here [1] to read), Mondelez has recruited strikebreakers in preparation for national bargaining with the IUF-affiliated BCTGM covering 5 Nabisco biscuit plants and three distribution centers.

Weeks before bargaining formally got underway on February 16, a company called Huffmaster Crisis Response, which provides replacement workers and security and describes itself as “the leading management of strike management solutions”, began posting online advertisements for experienced temporary workers “for a possible labor dispute that may occur on or about February 29, 2016.” That is the date on which the union agreements expire at the Nabisco sites. The advertisements do not mention Mondelez or Nabisco by name but seek to recruit workers in each of the five cities where the production plants are located.

According to the report, union representatives at the Nabisco bakery in Portland Oregon say that strike replacement workers have already been brought into the bakery to observe union members performing their jobs.

Through my previous work with the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), I got to know the dedication and skill of Jethro Head and of BCTGM General President David Durkee.   They will do whatever they can to effectively represent their union members in Chicago and the other Nabisco sites, even if this brings them into a collision course with the giant global snackfood corporation Mondelez.  The BCTGM has always demonstrated solidarity with workers in other countries when called upon.  The IUF has helped create a Mondelez International Union Solidarity Network that affirms the solidarity of its affiliates to provide mutual support for the BCTGM in this struggle.   But solidarity and support to be effective will require strong labor and community support for the BCTGM Nabisco workers in Chicago, Portland, Atlanta, Richmond and Fairlawn.

We will cover this emerging story over the next weeks and months.

 

 

Egyptian Union Organizes with Global Support

by Paul Garver

Mondelez

Update:

Following the reinstatement of all 5 executive members of the Cadbury Alexandria Union under their former conditions, elections were held on August 29 for the executive council of the union.

The leaders were once again elected as the principal officers of the union and supporters of the leadership fill all 9 positions on the executive.

160 members attended the meeting where the elections took place including 48 members from the other Mondelez factory in Alexandria at Burj el Arab. 3 of the elected executive members work at this factory where membership continues to grow.

Background
In July 2012, more than two years ago, the Egyptian division of Mondelez International (previously Kraft Foods International) suspended five members of the executive committee of a union in Alexandria that dared to declare itself independent. The same American-owned and managed global food company also disciplined union activists at Mondelez plants in Tunisia and Pakistan for similar reasons.

In response the IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide) organized a global “Screamdelez” campaign joined by its member unions on every continent. From Pakistan and Tunisia, through North America and Western Europe to Eastern Europe, Mondelez workers and their unions demonstrated to support their Egyptian counterparts. Hundreds of supporters around the world sent protest messages through the LabourStart international website to Irene Rosenthal, Mondelez CEO.

As a result of this campaign, Mondelez agreed to negotiate with the IUF, and following a meeting in Alexandria on July 9th the five executive board members were reinstated to their jobs with full retroactive back pay and benefits. Elections for the new term of the union executive committee at the plant will take place shortly. All five former union executive committee members will be entitled to stand.

In a last effort to avoid reinstating the union officers, local management argued:”But we don’t know how to reinstate them since no company has ever had to do that in Egypt before!” But the Egyptian result may become a precedent for Mondelez workers in other countries. The IUF and Mondelez International jointly stated that:

“This brings the long-running labour conflict in Alexandria to an end. Both local parties have committed to seek to resolve future challenges in a good-faith and constructive manner and, beyond Egypt, Mondelez International and the IUF have agreed “to discuss the lessons learnt from this conflict.”

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One lesson for all trade unionists is the power of global worker solidarity, in winning campaigns that can even transcend sharp national conflicts.  During the Screamdelez campaign delegates at the IUF EECA regional meeting, held in Kyiv {Kiev} on November 4-5, 2013 concluded their discussion on trade union development by a symbolic action in support of the struggling Mondelez workers in Egypt, Pakistan and world-wide. The participants included union leaders and activists from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Global Solidarity with Egyptian, Tunisian and Pakistani Workers Abused by American-based Corporation

Mondelezshareholderby Paul Garver

Mondelez International, the global corporation that is the object of the protest by American workers in this image, is not a household name. But its portfolio includes several billion-dollar brands such as Cadbury and Milka chocolate, Jacobs coffee, LU, Nabisco and Oreo biscuits, Tang powdered beverages and Trident gum. Mondelez International, until recently called Kraft Foods, Inc., has annual revenues of approximately $36 billion and operations in more than 80 countries.

This recent protest at its annual shareholders’ meeting in Chicago, comprised largely of members of Local 1 of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), was led by Ron Oswald, the general secretary of the IUF (International Union of Food Workers). The BCTGM was joining with food workers’ unions around the world in supporting Mondelez workers in Egypt, Tunisia, and Pakistan, whose unions were facing repression from Mondelez corporate management. Mondelez employs some 100,000 workers throughout the world. Almost all of its unionized workers are members of unions affiliated internationally to the IUF. Continue reading