Work slows at Portland plant as Nabisco shifts production to Mexico

Bakers Local 364 president Jason Lind and his coworkers at the Portland Nabisco plant have been losing wages in week-long plant shutdowns even as Portland stores stock Mexican-made Oreos, above.

Nabisco workers in Portland haven’t had their jobs outsourced to Mexico, but Mexican imports are beginning to pinch their paychecks anyway.

The Bakery Confectionery Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union has been waging a national boycott campaign against Mexican-made Nabisco products ever since parent company Mondelēz closed several Chicago baked good production lines in early 2016 and reopened them in Salinas, Mexico.

Now, work is slowing down at the Portland bakery that produces Oreos and Chips Ahoy, while Mexican-made versions of those cookies fill Portland store shelves.

Local 364 Business Representative Cameron Taylor said the Portland bakery shut down entirely the week after Memorial Day. Because unemployment insurance doesn’t kick in until the second week, the shutdown meant a week’s lost wages for the plant’s 200 union members. Then the last week of June, the company ran the plant at half capacity, with just three of its six ovens going. The first week of July, just two ovens were in production. Nabisco asked for volunteers to take a second week of unpaid time off, and some of the remaining production workers were reassigned to sanitation duty.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) mentioned the Portland slowdown in a June 15 letter to Mondelēz CEO Irene Rosenfeld.

“While my constituents are now back at work, I know they fear future disruptions,” Wyden wrote. Wyden asked Rosenfeld to share with him the company’s long-term vision for Oregon production.

Wyden’s letter came after a similar letter from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that was signed by 16 other Democratic U.S. senators, including Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

The letter expressed “deep concern” over Mondelēz’s ongoing corporate practice of shifting production from the company’s U.S. bakeries to its bakeries in Mexico.

“Mondelēz’ actions … put short-term profits ahead of investing in America and the American worker,” the senators wrote. “It is long past time for all corporations, including Mondelēz, to end offshoring practices that foster an economic race to the bottom and put short-term profits ahead or American workers and their families.”

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