More than 200 workers at Northeast Portland’s Nabisco bakery — which produces major cookie and cracker brands like Oreo, Chips Ahoy!, and Premium Saltine crackers — are on strike over a new contract. Since the group first walked out on August 10, the work stoppage has spread to Nabisco facilities in Richmond, Virginia (at another production bakery) and Aurora, Colorado (at a distribution hub) as others join the fight against parent company Mondelez International. In Portland, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union Local 364 are also picketing outside the facility — holding up signs reading “Don’t let this cookie crumble! Support the unions!” and “Portland is a union town!” — eliciting honks of support from drivers passing by on NE Columbia Boulevard.
The workers are fighting for a better contract amid concerns that Mondelez plans to eliminate a longstanding pay structure that offered overtime pay for weekend workers, or to workers that clocked in shifts over eight hours, regardless of the day. Under the new “alternative work schedule,” as one Mondelez spokesperson described it, workers would be paid a “straight time” until they hit 40 hours a week, regardless of what days those are or how long their shifts last. Workers say the new structure would cause some to lose thousands of dollars a year in pay, and the changes come at a time when many are concerned about Mondelez outsourcing jobs overseas. According to a statement released last week by the baker’s union: “After years of Nabisco closing bakeries and moving thousands of BCTGM jobs to Mexico and threatening to move even more jobs to Mexico, our members are saying, ‘We’ve had enough and we’re not taking it anymore.’”
A Mondelez representative tells Willamette Week that the work stoppage has not affected production at the Portland facility, though union vice president Mike Burlingham says nothing new is being produced on-site at the moment.