January 28, 2016 –BCTGM Local 300 – which represents nearly 1,000 members at the Mondelēz Nabisco Bakery on Kedzie Avenue in Chicago– filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) centered on the discrimination based on the race and age of employees at the plant. Of the facility’s more than 950 bargaining unit members, over 650 are African American or Latino and over 700 are over age 40. The complaint states that the company’s decision to move over 600 jobs to Mexico was driven by the desire to eliminate its largest workforce population made up of people of color and those over age 40.
In May 2015, the company notified the union that the workforce at the Southside Chicago Bakery would have to agree to $46,000,000 in contractual givebacks in order to secure investment at this bakery rather than in Mexico. This reduction in wages and benefits was not for a finite period of time, but every year in perpetuity to secure a one-time $130,000,000 investment into new technology at the Southside Chicago Bakery. This request amounted to between $22 and $29 dollars per hour in wage and benefit cuts. The demands were not reasonable and were not intended to be, the company only needed to approach the union to conform to its legal requirements under the NLRA. It had no intention of preserving the jobs in the Southside Chicago Bakery.
This request was not made of any other Mondelēz/Nabisco facility operating in the United States related to capital expenditures for technology upgrades. Nearly identical upgrades at the Mondelēz/Nabisco bakeries in Fair Lawn, New Jersey and Richmond, Virginia – each amounting to over $100,000,000 – required no such discussions or concessions.
“About 86 percent of the Bakers Union’s 950 or so members at the Chicago Bakery are over 40 and about 68 percent of them are people of color,” said BCTGM Midwest Region International Vice President Jethro Head,who also lives in the Chicago area. “No other group of employees in the company’s production system has received this treatment or had demands placed on them to cover capital expenditures to save their jobs. Not coincidentally – no other group of employees has the numbers of employees of color and over age 40 as the South Kedzie Plant location. The Chicago workforce has been treated differently than other plants based on its ethnicity and age. We will always fight for a safe and equitable environment for our members, and look forward to the EEOC’s response.”
Previously, on January 22, the BCTGM also filed for injunctive relief requesting court-compelled arbitration regarding ongoing company violations of its Collective Bargaining Agreement with BCTGM Local 300. The complaint calls for arbitration regarding the company’s continued use of non-union employees in bargaining unit positions instead of hiring union employees into open positions, as required under the Agreement. The complaint contends that this action was taken to diminish the union’s bargaining power prior to moving production lines to Mexico, an action which would eliminate over half of the jobs at the Bakery. The filing calls for the stoppage of any job movement while these issues are in dispute.
On January 19th, the company advised 277 Local 300 members that they would be terminated on March 21st. David Durkee, BCTGM International President, in response to the notices said, “We are not surprised that the company has chosen this time to give its notice. It falls just weeks before the parties sit down to begin bargaining over national terms for more than 2,200 BCTGM members who work for Mondelēz at six locations across the United States, including the Chicago Bakery. But regardless of the reason for the timing, we are not going to let a formal notice divert us from our goal of preventing this movement of good-paying jobs to their low-wage alternative in Mexico. The company wants to have it both ways – they want Americans to purchase its products, but aren’t interested in investing in Americans making the products. This is the mindset of a corporation without a conscience.”
In recent years, Mondelēz has exhibited a pattern of seeking short-term cost cuts at the expense of larger productivity that erodes job security and working conditions for its employees. Mondelēz CEO Irene Rosenfeld took in more than $21 million in total compensation in 2014, a nearly $6 million increase from the previous year as she and her Board of Directors continue to attempt to drive down the wages and benefits of their own employees worldwide. Over the past eight years, she alone has received about $170 million in compensation from the corporation.
Earlier this month, the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) and its affiliates, representing 2.5 million workers in 126 countries, including BCTGM, affirmed their solidarity with Mondelēz International workers across the globe. IUF affiliates represent the vast majority of Mondelēz manufacturing employees in over 30 countries from Alexandria, Egypt to Chicago, Illinois; and since 1920, the organization has been instrumental in driving policy reforms and institutional changes for workers’ rights and protections. This statement of global solidarity and commitment to mutual action against Mondelēz International, comes in reaction to a growing pattern of company actions that have “profoundly negative consequences for the rights and livelihoods of IUF members around the world. The IUF and its affiliates…will take all practical measures to provide mutual support to protect the rights and welfare of our members who work either directly for the company or in outsourced employment or facilities.”
The National contract between Mondelēz International and over 2,000 of its 4,000 workers represented by the BCTGM expires on February 29, 2016.