Nabisco workers strike against unfair treatment and unsafe conditions

Ryan Ehrhart, Opinion Editor

Workers at Nabisco – the brand that produces Oreos and Ritz Crackers– recently ended a five-week strike protesting unfair treatment and unsafe working conditions. About 1,000 employees garnered national attention as they walked out in five states, including workers in Portland, Ore.

Enjoying the increased demand for snack foods during the pandemic, Mondelez — which purchased Nabisco in 2018 — made $3 billion in profit last year. Despite such gains, they have taken away overtime pay, outsourced jobs to Mexico and removed retirement benefits from older employees, according to their employees.

Striking workers complained that they were forced to put in 16-hour workdays and that they might have to go more than six straight weeks without a day off. The removal of their overtime pay meant that people were expected to work 12 hours at a standard rate. That’s 12 hours in bakeries and distribution centers, which many workers say are unsafe.

“They would take an AC machine off of a human being and put it on a machine and let you just deal with the heat,” Willie Williams, a Nabisco worker told More Perfect Union, a union-focused media group.

Mondelez has laid off thousands of workers in recent years in an ongoing effort to outsource American jobs. In countries such as Mexico, the company can afford to pay workers even less and rake in steeper profit margins.

“They need to stop taking stuff from out of the US. I mean, what else are we going to have if you keep taking stuff — we won’t have any jobs,” said Nabisco worker April Flowers-Lewis from a picket line outside her facility.

After five weeks of strike, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) brought an end to the strike in a 590 to 201 vote on a peace deal from Nabisco.

The strike successfully stopped Mondelez’s plan to change their employees’ healthcare and also reinstated retirement benefits. While some workers say they got most of what they wanted, many remain dissatisfied with the overtime pay terms in the new agreement, which favor new employees over more seasoned ones.

The striking workers asked people to refrain from buying Nabisco products during the strike but now wish for consumers to be selective and choose American-made Nabisco products.