A U.S. union boycott of Mexican-made Nabisco products is now in its second year. The 68,000-member Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union called the boycott in March 2016 to protest the closure of Oreo production lines in Chicago. Parent company Mondelēz laid off over 400 Chicago workers who were making about $26 an hour, and shifted production to the Nabisco plant in Salinas, Mexico, where workers work six days a week and are paid the equivalent of less than $2 an hour.
[9/1/17 UPDATE: The $2 hourly wage figure comes from the minimum listed in the Mexican union contract. But a recent federal judge’s decision notes that Mondelez told BCTGM that its Mexican workers’ “average hourly wage and total compensation package” is $7 per hour.]
The boycott has the endorsement of the national AFL-CIO.
For all Nabisco products — including such iconic brands as Oreos, Triscuits, Fig Newtons, Chips Ahoy, and Ritz Crackers — BCTGM is asking consumers to read the label, and if it says Made in Mexico, don’t buy it.
BCTGM continues to represent about 2,000 workers at six Nabisco plants and two distribution centers in the U.S., including about 200 at an industrial bakery at 100 NE Columbia Boulevard in Portland. They’ve all been working without a new contract since their old one expired Feb. 29, 2016. No negotiations have taken place since April 2016, but the impasse hasn’t yet resulted in a strike or lockout.
Mondelēz has made two “last, best, and final” contract offers, most recently in December, but BCGTM rejected the terms. BCGTM says it wants Mondelēz to bring the jobs back, and rejects the company’s proposal to withdraw from the union-sponsored multi-employer pension. Mondelēz is proposing instead to contribute an equivalent amount to a 401(k) plan, because the union pension is headed for insolvency. As of April 28, the Bakery and Confectionery Union and Industry International Pension Fund was projected to run out of money in 13 years. But Mondelēz is still honoring the terms of the expired union contract, and is continuing to make pension contributions, totaling $21 million in 2016.
Instead of striking, BCTGM has focused its efforts on promoting the boycott, and has sent laid-off workers around the country, first to speak to union gatherings, and now to college campuses in a tour assisted by the national student labor organization United Students Against Sweatshops.
On May 17 — in a demonstration BCTGM called the “Nabisco shareholders showdown” — union protesters showed up outside a corporate meeting space in Lincolnshire, Illinois, for the annual shareholder meeting. Inside the meeting, several union leaders and a laid-off worker Anthony Jackson questioned company executives about the decision to downsize in Chicago. Though Mondelēz reports that sales are declining, the company is still immensely profitable, netting $26 billion in 2016 and paying its CEO $16.7 million.
At the shareholders meeting, BCTGM regional vice president Jethro Head submitted a shareholder proposal for Mondelēz to create a committee that would report on the community impact of Mondelez layoffs and factory closures. The resolution did not get majority support from shareholders.