During a press conference held at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington D.C., Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) released a detailed report, “Breaking Faith: Outsourcing and the Damage Done to our Communities” that reveals the impact of Mondélez-Nabisco’s outsourcing and exploitation of workers in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Over the last several months, Interfaith Worker Justice led a coalition of faith and labor representatives to cities where BCTGM members produce Nabisco products at Mondélez-Nabisco bakeries. In each location— Chicago (Local 300); Atlanta (Local 42); Fair Lawn, N.J. (Local 719); Richmond, Va. (Local 358); and Portland, Ore. (Local 364)— the group spent significant time talking with both current and laid off workers. The last stop for the activists came in late November when they traveled to Monterrey, Mexico to learn more about workers and the working conditions at the Mondélez plant there.
Prominent civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) made a special appearance at the press conference to hear the results of the international investigation by IWJ. In opening remarks to the gathering, BCTGM International President David Durkee thanked the Congressman for his leadership and support saying:
“Thank you for adding your voice to this struggle for good jobs and workers’ rights. You are one of my personal heroes. That you have joined this struggle, strengthens the campaign and further confirms that we are on the side of righteousness and justice.”
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre and members of the IWJ Executive Board also delivered remarks during the event, which also included BCTGM Executive Secretary-Treasurer Steve Bertelli and the Secretary-Treasurers of all AFL-CIO affiliate unions.
Reflecting on the importance of the IWJ’s work Durkee said:
“From this day forward, this report will serve as the benchmark and standard by which corporate business models will be judged in terms of morality, fairness, decency and commitment to community. This Report provides additional solid evidence that the existing Nabisco/Mondelēz business model has caused immense hardship for thousands of workers, their families and communities in the U.S. and Mexico.”
BCTGM Local 719 Financial Secretary Stan Milewski, Local 364 Business Agent/Recording Secretary Cameron Taylor and Local 42 Business Manager Zack Townsend attended the event to hear the results of the report. Each Local Union officer assisted the coalition in their respective cities. A significant portion of the report is told through the words and experiences of BCTGM members. Milewski, who began his career at the Fair Lawn Nabisco bakery 38 years ago at age 18; and whose mother also worked in the plant as a union baker, is included in the report.
“Mondélez-Nabisco has come to treat its workers just the same way they would the other commodities that go into Oreos, such as cocoa, sugar, flour, and so on,” Laura Barrett, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, says in the report. Shifting
production of Oreos from Chicago to Mexico reflects “a trend of exporting from the United States production lines that baked and packed Nabisco’s so-called Power Brands – those with greater, steady sales, such as Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Honey Grahams, and Ritz Crackers,” IWJ Executive Director Laura Barrett writes in opening to the report.
BCTGM President David Durkee echoed the report findings saying:
The IWJ report is a powerful commentary on the many ways in which Mondelēz/Nabisco’s corrosive business model exploits workers and their communities across borders. With Mondelēz’s new leadership at the top, we trust this report will prompt a serious reassessment of the company’s self-professed commitment to, ‘[make] a positive change in the world – for people, communities and the environment.’ IWJ’s research exposes a yawning gap between this sentiment and reality, and we look forward to continuing to do our part to hold Mondelēz accountable.
In conclusion, Durkee urged CEO Dirk Van de Put:
We call on the Mondelez’s new CEO, Mr. Dirk Van De Put to jettison this economically destructive and socially corrosive business model and chart a different course for the company – one that expands economic opportunity and improves the social condition for employees; one that respects workers’ rights; one that enhances the economic vitality of the communities in which this company operates.
Mr. Van de Put, you can and should set Nabisco/Mondelez on this new course. Doing so will serve the interests of the company, its shareholders, its workers and the communities in which they live. We stand ready to work with you to achieve this goal.