Following a five-week-long strike and clashes between picketers and hired security guards, members of the the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union have voted to ratify a tentative agreement with Mondelez International regarding its new contract. While some Portland workers vocally opposed the proposed contract, union officials say the votes were “overwhelmingly” in favor of the tentative agreement; the Portland Mercury reports 75 percent of workers voted to accept the proposal.
Mondelez owns Nabisco, which makes snacks like Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and Ritz; employees of Mondelez bakeries saw their standing contract expire at the end of May. On September 15, BCTGM President Anthony Shelton announced that union leadership and Mondelez had come to a tentative agreement over the conditions of the workers’ new contracts. “Very late last night, BCTGM negotiators reached a tentative agreement with Nabisco/Mondelez on a new contract,” a statement from the union, posted Wednesday, reads. “In the coming days, the Local Union officers on the bargaining committee will present the tentative agreement to their respective memberships who will then vote on the agreement.”
The next day, BCTGM Local 364, a group of Nabisco employees in Portland, met to discuss the details of the proposed contract and vote. A group of those workers announced that they have voted against the proposal, and will continue to picket outside the Portland plant. “We were the first ones to walk out, we’re still going to fight this thing, and we need you to vote ‘no,’” a worker says in a Twitter video; the video ends with picketers chanting, “Stay strong; vote ‘no.’”
On August 10, Local 364 went on strike in response to Mondelez’s proposed contract, which union members say would result in workers putting in 12-hour shifts while picking up less overtime, costing them thousands of dollars each year; during the pandemic, some Nabisco workers have been upwards of 16-hour days. “For more than a year throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Nabisco workers in Portland and other locations around the country have been working long, hard hours, day in and day out, to produce Nabisco products for American families,” the initial statement from BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton reads. “Nabisco is making record profits but still this company wants to squeeze more out of its workers.”
Mondelez International reported a 2.8 percent increase in revenue in 2020, and CEO Dirk Van de Put made around $16.8 million last year. The company claims that its proposed contract would have increased annual wages and not changed workers’ current healthcare benefits. “Our goal has been — and continues to be — to bargain in good faith with the BCTGM leadership across our U.S. bakeries and sales distribution facilities to reach new contracts that continue to provide our employees with good wages and competitive benefits, including quality, affordable healthcare, and company-sponsored Enhanced Thrift Investment 401(k) Plan, while also taking steps to modernize some contract aspects which were written several decades ago,” a statement from Mondelez reads.
Earlier this year, Mondelez closed two U.S. factories — one in Georgia and another in New Jersey — which the union describes as a step toward outsourcing jobs to Mexican bakeries. Mondelez denies that the company is interested in moving jobs to Mexico, and the U.S. Department of Labor did not find evidence of outsourcing following the Georgia bakery closure.
Nonetheless, the Nabisco workers strike spread from Portland to other cities, including Denver, Chicago, and Richmond, Virginia. Politicians including Sen. Ron Wyden, Gov. Kate Brown, and Sen. Bernie Sanders — as well as actor Danny Devito — have publicly announced their support of the picketing workers. Various other local unions, Portland city commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Carmen Rubio, and Portland Thorns players have all joined Local 364 at the picket line during the past five weeks of protests.
In response to the daily picketing, Mondelez International hired nonunion workers to replace the striking Nabisco employees and contracted crisis response company Huffmaster to post a small staff of security guards at the picket site. Picketers say these security guards have repeatedly tried to intimidate workers on the picket line, and Portland Teamster Jesse Dreyer, who has been visiting the Nabisco picket in solidarity, filed a lawsuit against the company for “forcefully pinning (Dreyer) against a van and physically striking (him) for several minutes,” Willamette Week reports. On Wednesday night, after the announcement of the tentative agreement, KATU reports protesters blocked vans trying to leave the Nabisco plant in Northeast Portland, while hired security guards physically shoved those protesters out of the way of the vehicles.
Now that the votes have been tallied, members of Local 364 have expressed their disappointment with the election results. “It’s disappointing, to be honest,” BCTGM Local 364 Vice President Michael Burlingham told the Mercury. “I’m not surprised, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.”
• BCTGM Local 364 Portland Oregon [Facebook]
• Negotiation Updates [Mondelez]
• BCTGM Reaches Tentative Agreement for Nabisco Workers [Official]
• Union Vote Ends Nabisco Strike, Despite Portland Workers’ Protest [Merc]
• Striking Nabisco workers to vote on contract offer [CST]
• Nabisco strike in Northeast Portland turns contentious [KATU]
• Teamster Sues Strike Staffing Company Used by Nabisco Owner, Alleging Assault by Security Guard [WWeek]
• Portland Nabisco Workers Lead Strike That Has Now Spread Nationwide [EPDX]
Update Monday, September 20, at 10:44 a.m.: This story has been updated to include the union election results.
Update Thursday, September 16 at 10:10 a.m.: This story has been updated to include information about the clash outside the Northeast Portland Nabisco plant on Wednesday night.
Update Thursday, September 16 at 2:11 p.m.: This story has been updated to include comments from Local 364 members regarding the current vote.