By Richard McCluskey, Oregon People’s Newsletter – September 29, 2021. Reprinted with permission
I’ve lived in North Portland for a decade and often drive by the Nabisco bakery to the smell of baking Oreo wafers. The scent would fill the entire neighborhood for blocks around but today the sweetness is gone.
Conversations with Nabisco Strike Picketers
Union workers there have been on strike since August 10 over stalled contract negotiations and now their strike has gone nationwide, with picket lines in front of all Nabisco bakeries throughout the United States. A representative of the striking workers told me that, on that day, one small line was being operated by management.
I asked if any of their members had crossed the picket line to work and was told that, although one or two workers had crossed the picket line, solidarity among the striking workers remains strong.
Many of the workers I spoke with feel that their Union brothers and sisters are like family and they look out for each other, cover for each other through adversity, and protect even the newest of their members on the bakery floors.
Issues with the Nabisco Contract
The greatest sticking point for the Local #364 is a proposed two-tier pay system with one rate for veteran workers and a lower rate for new hires. The proposal by Nabisco is a non-starter for Local Union members. The second reason cited is the ongoing dismantling of employee services within the bakery; services which once included a full service credit union and a personnel department able to help with employee concerns. Today, if a discrepancy occurs with an employee’s paycheck, the employee has to call a 1-800 number and speak to someone in an office…half a world away.
Workers Hurt By Buy-outs
Veteran workers lost their pensions during the Kraft Foods buyout of Nabisco back in 1988 and the further dismantling of employee services continues to accelerate. In a never ending corporate march toward profit at all cost, the first to suffer are the people who labor to bake, package, and ship. While, on Wall Street, stockholders reap the rewards of the labor of hundreds of thousands of workers. Mondelēz International group (parent corp of Nabisco) logged record profits this year, and must treat the union workers with dignity and respect.
No contract, no snacks.
How To Support Striking Workers
The striking workers are thankful for the support of the public, other unions, and worker rights organizations. You can join them every Saturday from noon until 2pm at 100 NE Columbia Blvd, Portland, OR along with supporters from Jobs With Justice, SEIU, Fight For 15, and many others in solidarity.
Engage in Subversive Buying
You can also support the struggle in the form of Subversive Buying. As mentioned earlier, nearly all of the Oreos (and many of the other Nabisco products on store shelves) are now made in Mexico in a non-union bakery. In order to send a message, some are buying out the shelves then returning the products to the store complaining that the products were not baked at the local, US union-staffed bakery but at a non-union bakery in Mexico. The store can not put the product back on the shelf but must then return them to Nabisco.
Strike Has Ended – Workers Still Dissatisfied
Note: As of the time of publication the strike has ended after the BCTGM secured enough votes from striking workers nationwide to declare acceptance of a new contract. This despite an overwhelming no vote from striking workers in Portland and Chicago who characterized the contract as concessionary and not meeting their demands.
Wealth comes from labor, all else is plunder.
rhmccluskey, volunteer, People’s Party of Oregon
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