NAFTA impact: your Oreo cookies made in Mexico, not Chicago

CHICAGO – Starting soon, as a result of the firm’s drive for higher profits and lower wages, your Oreo cookies will be made in Mexico, not Chicago. And it’s all thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

That’s the unpleasant news – minus the NAFTA reference, of course-that Mondelez, Inc., delivered to workers at its Southwest Side plant on Aug. 24. Bakery Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers President David Durkee says approximately 600 workers – the Oreo production line there-would lose their jobs. Some other product lines for Mondelez, which used to be Kraft Foods, would stay open at the Chicago plant, its largest in the U.S.

In a letter to President Obama, a Chicagoan whose home is several miles northeast of the plant, Durkee said Mondelez demanded $46 million in annual savings from the union workers. It was an “offer,” Durkee added, calculated to be rejected.

Mondelez basically wanted the Chicago cuts to not only boost its profits “but pay for the Mexican workers’ wages, too,” the union says. And it could demand the cuts and make the move, Durkee said, thanks to NAFTA, the 20-year-old controversial U.S.-Canada-Mexico “free trade” pact that has become a model for other such agreements.

BCTGM calculated that $46 million would equal wage and benefit cuts of $22-$29 an hour for the workers at the plant, where BCTGM Local 300 represents all 1,000-plus workers. That compares to $2 an hour Mondelez plans to pay workers in Salinas, Mexico, to produce Oreo cookies. The firm announced it will invest $130 million in what it calls “more efficient” production lines in Salinas.

NAFTA and other succeeding trade pacts, including the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, trash U.S. workers, says Durkee. The pacts promote “a pernicious corporate business model predicated on the maximization of profits and executive compensation through elimination of good middle-class jobs at U.S. factories concurrent with expansion of production in unregulated factories in very low-wage countries.”

Mondelez, Durkee noted, is a profitable $35 billion worldwide firm whose CEO earned $21 million in total compensation last year. Durkee asked Obama “to reach out to Mondelez” corporate leaders and “ask them to rescind their decision and create, not cut, U.S. middle-class jobs.”

Many Chicago plant Oreo workers have been with Kraft/Nabisco/Mondelez for decades.

There has been no response yet from Nabisco, Mondelez – or Obama.

Photo: Wikipedia (CC)


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.