PI Original Ellyn Fortino Tuesday May 17th, 2016, 2:12pm

Nabisco Workers To Protest Chicago Layoffs, Offshoring At Mondelez's Shareholders Meeting

Current and former Chicago Nabisco bakery workers and their supporters are set to protest Wednesday morning at Mondelez International's annual shareholders meeting in Lincolnshire. The workers are targeting the company over its decision to lay off 600 Chicago Nabisco bakery employees as it moves some production work to Mexico. 

Current and former Chicago Nabisco bakery workers and their union allies are stepping up their fight against layoffs at the Southwest Side plant.

They plan to protest Wednesday morning at snack food manufacturing giant Mondelez International's annual shareholders meeting, which is being held in Lincolnshire at NOAH's Event Venue. 

Deerfield-based Mondelez, maker of Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and other snack foods, owns the Southwest Side Nabisco factory, where 600 jobs are expected to be cut under the company's plan to move some production work to its existing facility is Salinas, Mexico. The company is adding four new state-of-the-art manufacturing lines at its Salinas plant as part of a $130 million project expected to be complete by mid-2016.

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which represents some 4,000 Mondelez workers, is organizing the protest outside the company's shareholders meeting. Workers and representatives from the AFL-CIO and Chicago Jobs With Justice are expected to join the demonstration. 

"We, along with our brothers and sisters across the country, admonish the outrageous corporate gluttony of Mondelez executives, particularly CEO Irene Rosenfeld's $20 [million] annual compensation and $35 [million] pension," BCTGM International Vice President Jethro Head said in a statement Tuesday. "We will continue the fight to bring to light this corporate injustice until all Americans are aware that Mondelez is turning its backs not only on our local community and workers, but all hardworking Americans by taking these jobs to Monterrey and Salinas, Mexico, where low wages and minimal regulatory standards and oversight persist.

"Mondelez continues to ask Americans to purchase its products, but it isn't interested in the well-being of Americans making the products," Head continued. "There is much work left to be done; we will not cease until there is a meaningful and fair resolution to the short-sighted betrayal of American jobs and local communities."

The impending offshoring of Chicago Nabisco bakery jobs has gained the attention of presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Many local elected officials have spoken out over the issue as well.

In March, the first round of layoffs at the Southwest Side Nabisco facility took effect, impacting 277 workers. Later this month, a second wave of layoffs is expected to affect about 90 bakery workers, according to BCTGM.

Michael Smith, 59, was among the Nabisco bakery employees laid off in March. The Tinley Park resident worked at the Chicago plant for more than four years and primarily made belVita Breakfast Biscuits.

Smith said the search for a new job has been difficult. 

"A lot of manufacturing jobs have left Illinois, and the jobs of my younger years are not as readily available as they have been in the past," he explained. "It's a pretty challenging job pool out there."

Smith will be at Wednesday's protest, which will be live-streamed on Periscope starting at 8 a.m. 

"I am hoping, with my whole heart, that this outcry of these 600 separated people from this company will go around this globe," he said. 

BCTGM launched a campaign calling on consumers to boycott Nabisco products made outside of the United States as a means to "support middle-class American jobs." 

Workers are urging consumers to "send a strong message" to Mondelez that its job offshoring plan is "anti-American," Smith said.

"It is wrong to do this to this nation, and to this group of people" at the Chicago Nabisco bakery, he said. 

In spring 2015, Mondelez said it would be making an investment in four new manufacturing lines, either at its existing Chicago bakery or Mexico facility. Discussion over the investment opportunity took place over four months, during which meetings were held with union members, according to the company. 

Last July, Mondelez announced its decision to invest in the Salinas plant. If the company opted instead to invest in the Chicago bakery, four new manufacturing lines would have replaced the plant's older, inefficient lines. That would have negatively impacted headcount at the Chicago Nabisco bakery, according to Mondelez spokeswoman spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati.

Once the Salinas facility's investment project is completed, the Chicago Nabisco bakery will continue to have approximately 600 employees, Guzzinati said.

"The Chicago bakery is not closing," she said. "We continue to invest in that site behind products like belVita, and the Chicago site continues to remain an important site for us from a manufacturing perspective and is still the home to many hundreds of employees that are supporting our business."

Mondelez, which has a business presence in 100 countries, has about 20,000 employees in the United States. Since 2012, the company has invested approximately $450 million in its U.S.-based manufacturing operations, Guzzinati said.

"We certainly are committed to the Chicago bakery and committed to the United States in a variety of ways," she said. 

Comments

Shoppijng at Jewel yesterday, I noticed that the Oreo cookies there are manufactured in Mexico, according to the label.

I didn't buy any.

 

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