Bakery workers at the Nabisco cookie plant in North Portland entered their 12th of a strike on Saturday after union members walked out on Aug. 10 following the breakdown of contract negotiations.
Representatives of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union Local 364 (BCTGM) said that workers decided to strike after three weeks of negotiations with Mondelez International, the Chicago-based owner of Nabisco, failed to yield an agreement.
According to Cameron Taylor, a union business agent, one of the major sticking points was a proposal to shift employees to a seven-day, alternating shift workweek and remove overtime pay for weekends.
“These guys worked through the pandemic, making all these snack products for this company, working record time, at record hours,” Taylor said. “This company made record profits, and they come to the table and they want takeaways from us. It’s disgusting.”
According to a statement from Mondelez, the company is disappointed that union employees decided to walk out. The company said its goal has always been to bargain in good faith with its employees, but it has now activated a plan to continue production while workers remain on strike.
“We have activated our robust business continuity plan and are committed to continuing to supply our delicious snacks to retailers and consumers,” the statement reads.
The walkout by workers at the Portland plant was followed by walkouts at four other facilities in Colorado, Virginia and Illinois, representing a strike of more than 1,000 employees nationwide.
Union employees have picketed in front of the Columbia Boulevard facility every day since the walkout, with more than 200 people joining on Saturday for a rally at the front gates, where labor advocates and other supporters chanted and waved signs.
Union organizers and politicians such as Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor, state Rep. Rachel Prusak, D-West Linn, and Secretary of State Shemia Fagan were in attendance.
Vehicles passing by the picket line slowed down to read signs, honk in appreciation and hold raised fists out their windows. Members of unions representing a wide variety of industries were also in attendance — as well as workers who don’t have union representation — in a show of solidarity.
BCTGM Union Local 364 President and Nabisco factory worker Jesus Martinez said the outpouring of support has meant a lot to those who have decided to walk out and fight for a better contract.
“They’ve said they want us to give up benefits, they want us to work more, and it has to stop,” Martinez said. “We just want something fair. We want to keep what we’ve already paid for. They’ve given us nothing for free. Everything has been negotiated.”
Nearly a dozen or so speakers stood in front of the large crowd at the front gates of the facility on Saturday to air grievances with how the facility’s management has treated its workers. Some speakers from other unions offered words of encouragement and shared similar experiences in fighting for better contracts.
One of the main themes speakers returned to was corporate greed, highlighting that Mondelez International recorded more than $3.5 billion in profits in 2020.
Union vice president Mike Burlingham said he and his coworkers appreciate the support and hope they can inspire others to stand up for themselves in their negotiations with employers for fair working conditions, pay and benefits.
“This is a fight for the American middle class,” Burlingham said. “We’re fighting to maintain what we already have. We’re not coming to the table asking for things, we’re coming to the table saying just leave things alone.”
To support them in the fight for a better contract, bakery union workers are asking the public not to buy certain products made at their facility. That includes Oreos and Chips Ahoy cookies.