Bakers in Chicago call for public boycott of Nabisco

Nabisco using scabs to break the strikes as it ships jobs to Mexico

Illinois Correspondent

STRIKING BAKERY, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 1 members strike outside the Chicago Nabisco plant on Aug. 27. – Tyler LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times photo

Chicago, IL – Striking Bakery Workers Local 1 in Chicago is asking union brothers to join in their boycott of Nabisco, saying the company is refusing to bargain in good faith despite making record profits. The local went on strike Aug. 19.

Anthony Shelton, international president of Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), issued the request last week in a letter distributed by the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Bakers’ locals in Portland, Ore. and Richmond, Va. are also on strike, as well as distribution centers in Denver and Atlanta, affecting a total of about 1,000 workers employed by the parent company Mondelez.

“After years of Nabisco closing bakeries and moving thousands of BCTGM jobs to Mexico and threatening to send even more jobs to Mexico, Local 1 members are taking a stand,” Shelton said.

The company has not only refused to bargain in good faith but is also demanding concessions and will not make a commitment to keeping jobs in the U.S., Shelton said.

The concessions include higher health insurance costs for new hires and ending overtime premiums after more than a year of extreme overtime and nonstop weekend work.

“The BCTGM respectfully asks all Labor organizations to urge their members to honor the local’s picket line and refuse to support the business operations of Nabisco in Chicago,” Shelton said. “The BCTGM is grateful for your solidarity and support for our brothers and sisters at Nabisco.”

The nationwide strike began Aug. 10 in Portland, Ore., soon followed by employees in Colorado and Virginia. Union leaders cited demands for contract concessions and frequent outsourcing of jobs to non-union plants in Mexico. Part of Nabisco’s proposal is to end premium pay for weekends. Nabisco has also fired 1,000 union workers in New Jersey, shifting the jobs to non-union plants in Mexico and Ohio.

Local 1 has about 325 members at the Chicago plant at 7300 S. Kedzie Ave. plus 20 more in a sales office.

“They’re trying to bring in retirees and managers,” Local 1 Business Agent Veronica Hopkins said. “They have not been very successful. They barely have enough people to run one line.”

The company is also seeking to provide a lower level of health care for new hires, which workers oppose. About 1,000 members are on strike nationwide.

Eight days after the Portland local went on strike, the company began busing in a few scab workers from Huffmaster, a strike-breaking specialist, the Northwest Labor Press reported.

Groups of Machinists, Electricians, Operating Engineers have joined the strike there, and Teamsters and rail workers are not making deliveries.

Labor groups and political leaders including Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek have been holding rallies on Saturday mornings there, and on Aug. 28, about 100 supporters marched from the bakery to a nearby grocery store. On Aug. 20, they blocked scab buses for several hours, and on Aug. 24, the scab bus crashed through temporary fencing and crossed a sidewalk to get the scabs out of the plant.

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