Furor over Mexican Oreos, but no union boycott

Colbert on Trump's Oreo boycottBy Don McIntosh, Associate editor

Donald Trump says he’ll never eat another Oreo. Stephen Colbert, spoofing him in his inaugural Late Show, devoured the cookies. And 4,500 people have signed an online pledge to stop eating Oreos.

What’s it all about? Oreos, invented by the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) in 1912, have been made by the company in Chicago ever since. But on July 29, Nabisco’s corporate owner, Mondelēz International, announced it will spend $130 million to install four new production lines at its Salinas, Mexico, bakery, and shut nine of its 16 production lines in Chicago, laying off 600 of its 1,200 Chicago workers.

Mondelēz … may be headquartered 30 miles up the road from Chicago, but it has no loyalty to Illinois workers or to the United States of America.” —BCGTM president David Durkee

The Chicago workers are members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 300, Machinists District Lodge 8, and Operating Engineers Local 399. Leaders of BCTGM, the largest of the Nabisco unions, say behind-the-scenes talks over the decision were brutal. Company officials told union reps May 15 they were considering two locations for new capital investment — Chicago and Salinas — but they’d only pick Chicago if the unions opened their contracts to offer concessions amounting to $46 million a year … and there’d still be 300 job losses even then.

BCGTM officials say they refused to even consider such a proposal: It would have amounted to a cut of as much as $29 per hour — for workers whose wage-and-benefit package totals about $50 an hour.

“Mondelēz is a $35 billion multinational corporation,” said BCGTM president David Durkee in an Aug. 5 letter to President Obama. “It may be headquartered 30 miles up the road from Chicago, but it has no loyalty to Illinois workers or to the United States of America.”

Mondelēz International may or may not be “creating delicious moments of joy,” as its mission states, but its announcement created a delicious irony: a sizable fraction of the cookies that used to be described as “America’s Favorite” on every package will soon be made in Mexico.

So should American workers stop buying Oreos — and Chips Ahoy, Ritz Crackers, Trident Gum, Tang, and dozens of other Mondelēz brands?

“We understand where Trump’s coming from,” said Cameron Taylor, business agent at BCTGM Local 364. But to be clear, BCGTM is not boycotting Oreos, Nabisco or Mondelēz … yet.

For the time being, anyway, Oreos will continue to be made by union workers in Portland, Oregon; Atlanta, Georgia; Fair Lawn, New Jersey; and Richmond, Virginia.

BCGTM’s national contract with Nabisco expires February 29, 2016.


SEE ALSO: How to tell if your Oreo is union-made

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