International Union of Food Workers Announces Solidarity in Support of United Effort to Protect Worker Rights
KENSINGTON, Md., January 7, 2015 –The International Union of Food Workers (IUF) and its affiliates, representing 2.5 million workers in 126 countries, have 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, maker of Nabisco branded products, 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,” according to the statement.
The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), represents approximately 4,000 Mondelēz workers in manufacturing facilities, flour mills and distribution centers across North America, and has been a highly-engaged, long-standing affiliate of the IUF. The BCTGM is grateful for the global fraternal support of the IUF global brotherhood as it faces increased anti-worker action by the company.
In recent years, Mondelēz has continued to seek short-term cost cuts at the expense of larger productivity and 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 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.
“When Americans lose opportunities to provide for their families, when good, middle-class jobs become a ‘distant memory of a better time,’ we cannot and will not sit on our hands; we will take all necessary action along with our global partners,” stated BCTGM International President David Durkee. “When corporate greed seeks to cut costs and take advantage of workers across all borders, we must take action. We believe that these middle-class manufacturing jobs have provided a direct path for Americans to build a secure future and these opportunities must be protected. We are grateful for the support of our IUF Brothers and Sisters, and will join them in taking any and all measures necessary to protect the rights and welfare of our combined memberships.”
In May, Mondelēz approached Chicago workers and presented them with a proposal: to find $46 million in concessions per year in perpetuity to cover the costs of investing in Chicago, or the plant expansion would occur at the Salinas, Mexico plant and 600 jobs would be lost. This would have amounted to a wage and benefits cut of $22-29 per hour, per employee. Even if that was a feasible ask financially, it would still have resulted in the loss of 255 BCTGM jobs. In the history of the company, Mondelēz has never before asked employees to provide funding to cover a capital expenditure, much less an amount that would have crippled the workforce financially.
On July 29th, Mondelēz announced it had chosen to invest in a plant in Mexico at the expense of 600 workers – over half of the workforce – at its South Side Kedzie Avenue factory in the 18th Ward of the City of Chicago – the oldest and largest Nabisco factory in the country. Two-thirds of impacted workers are African-American or Latino, and comprise the highest number of minority workers at any U.S. Mondelēz facility. In addition, over 80% of impacted workers are over the age of 40, a highly disproportionate targeting of the tenured workforce. The move of these jobs by Nabisco to Mexico will not only directly impact these families but another 1,200-1,800 spin off jobs within this community.
Compounding these actions, for decades Nabisco/Mondelēz has received millions of dollars in public assistance and tax breaks for locating and operating plants in Chicago and elsewhere throughout the state. Mondelēz received $90 million in tax incentives and subsidies to upgrade the Chicago plant in the 1990s, when the company threatened to leave Illinois. And both the City and State came through to keep the jobs in Chicago by providing $700,000 in state worker-retraining funds.
BCTGM International Vice President Jethro Head stated, “Mondelēz may be headquartered 30 miles from the Nabisco Bakery on South Kedzie Avenue, but, sadly, this company’s genuine commitment to our community and our citizens is well in the past.”
The National contract between Mondelēz International and over 2000 of its 4,000 workers represented by the BCTGM expires on February 29, 2016.