Members of BCTGM Local 364 on the picket line earlier in September. They were joined by progressive Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, standing third from left. | Donnajo Calhoun-Marks / via BCTGM
PORTLAND, Ore. —You can buy and eat Oreo cookies again. Just make sure they’re made in the U.S.A., especially in Portland, Ore., not in Monterrey, Mexico.
The reason we specify Portland is it’s where Mondelez workers, at that Nabisco cookie and snack plant, fed up with company refusal to bargain a new and better contract at a time of record earnings, started what became a national walkout by the firm’s workers, all Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) members.
Key issues were not just raises, but working conditions. Those sometimes included back-to-back 12-to-16-hour shifts, BCTGM said.
The workers at the firm’s five U.S. snack plants, including Portland and Chicago, didn’t get all they wanted, but they got a lot from the firm and overwhelmingly ratified the contract, said union President Anthony Shelton.
“This has been a long and difficult fight for our striking members, their families, and our union. Throughout the strike, our members displayed tremendous courage, grit, and determination,” he said Sept. 18.
“The BCTGM is grateful for the outpouring of fraternal support and solidarity we received from across the labor movement in the U.S. and around the world,” including from AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, a Portland native, said Shelton.
The workers demanded an end to forced 12-to-16-hour shifts, often back-to-back, known as “suicide shifts,” and six-or-seven-day workweeks. They also wanted better wages and benefits, including restoring their pensions, which Mondelez had replaced with “an inferior program” in 2018, and improved overtime and health insurance provisions.
BCTGM did not disclose specifics of what it won. But moreperfectunion.us, a pro-worker video website, reported the contract includes a 60-cents-per-hour wage increase for each year in its four-year term, a $5,000 signing bonus for all employees, and eliminating two-tiered health insurance which hurt new workers.
BCTGM argued Mondelez can afford to be generous, as the coronavirus pandemic drove the country indoors, snacking away. Its revenue last quarter was $6.64 billion, 12% more than the equivalent quarter of a year before, and its year-on-year revenue increased 3%.
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.
This article was produced by People's World.