Oreo workers take Nabisco fight global

CHICAGO – This week saw the coming together of representatives from the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers union (BCTGM) and the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) to discuss turning up the heat on Mondelēz-Nabisco.

BCTGM is an affiliate of IUF, an international trade union federation that represents the majority of Mondelēz manufacturing workers globally, with shops as far flung as Alexandria, Egypt. Last Summer, Mondelēz announced that it would lay off 600 union workers from its plant on the South Side of Chicago and send their jobs to Mexico along with production of the famous Oreo cookie.

Ron Baker, head of strategic campaigns for BCTGM, told People’s World that the meeting is to “address this multinational at a multinational level.”

Details of the meeting were under wraps at the time of the interview, but Baker indicated that spirits were high.

“We have representatives from the U.S., Canada, Germany, and all the countries where Mondelēz does business. It’s great participation across the globe,” said Baker, “We’re figuring out how to present a united front and unified message across all segments.”

A united front is needed because of Mondelēz’s implementation of similar tactics across many national markets.

“U.S. or not, Mondelēz’s pattern of moving work from high-paid, industrialized countries to lower wage countries persists,” Baker said, “All for the goal to pull down wages and benefits in order to increase their profits for their high-end investors.”

IUF’s statement of solidarity with the 600 laid-off Mondelēz-Nabisco workers reads in part, “Mondelēz is transferring resources from sites where workers have been traditionally well organized to fund expansion into regions and facilities where workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation… The endless cycle of closures and outsourcing destroys decent employment and drains resources from communities.”

In addition to moving jobs out of organized regions, Baker says that Mondelēz is further undermining pay and benefits of workers by hiring hard-to-organize, non-traditional employees.

“Where they have yet to move, the places where work still exists, they’re trying to infuse what they call in Europe ‘casual employees.’ Basically temporary workers and part-timers displace what used to be full-time jobs. It’s a dual strategy: move the jobs out entirely and when you can’t, undermine good jobs by hiring on temporary labor.”

BCTGM’s boycott of Mexican-made Oreo cookies, which is endorsed by the AFL-CIO, is a response to the outsourcing of American union jobs that may expand worldwide. As a result of this meeting, it may also expand to incorporate new brands. This would mark a significant escalation, as the IUF boasts “412 affiliated trade unions in 126 countries with an affiliated membership of over 2.5 million members.”

“We’re working on a strategy that can work for all of us,” said Ron Baker.

As of press time, a statement from BCTGM or IUF on the results of the two-day meeting has yet to be released. People’s World will continue to cover this story as it develops.

Photo: BCTGM and IUF representatives from the U.S., U.K., Spain, Ireland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, and Canada met to discuss expanding their efforts to take on Nabisco. | BCTGM via Twitter


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.