UPDATE: Sept. 20, 2021: The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union announced that the strike has ended after its members agreed to a new contract, with workers expected to return to the factories in five states this week. The union said that its members "made enormous sacrifices in order to achieve a quality contract that preserves our Union’s high standards for wages, hours and benefits for current and future Nabisco workers."
In a statement to Food Dive, Mondelēz said the new four-year contract, retroactive to March 1st of this year, will include benefits such as hourly wage increases, ratification bonuses, a higher match for 401(k) contributions, and "new flexible work schedules to unlock additional capacity." The Oreo and Ritz Crackers maker also said it is positioning itself to "increase capacity through potential new investments" in its facilities to meet high demand.
- Mondelēz International workers who make Oreos and other Nabisco products are on strike in five states as they negotiate a new contract with the food maker. The strike started on Aug. 10 in Oregon and has since spread to factories in Illinois, Virginia, Colorado and Georgia. Nabisco workers have been without a contract since the end of May.
- Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union argue the company is pushing for unfair changes in overtime rules and shift lengths while exporting jobs to Mexico. They also claim that during the pandemic, employees have often worked 16-hour days and Mondelēz has profited at their expense.
- The snack giant said in a statement that its goal is "to bargain in good faith ... while also modernizing some contract aspects which were written several decades ago to set up our U.S. employees and bakeries for long-term success." Mondelēz said these negotiations are not about Mexico and no jobs went there because of recent plant closures in Georgia and New Jersey.
As the pandemic unfolded, food manufacturers moved quickly to increase output to meet a surge in demand as consumers stockpiled products at home and bypassed visits to restaurants and entertainment venues. The spike has eased somewhat but employees who worked extra hours while the COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding are showing signs of fatigue and digging in during their contract negotiations.
"The BCTGM will take all appropriate action necessary in order to reach a contract settlement that treats Nabisco workers fairly and equitably," Anthony Shelton, the president of the union representing the Mondelēz workers, said in a recent statement. "We stand ready to negotiate but refuse all attempts by this company to force workers to accept concessions that rob them of their dignity.”
The strikes affecting Mondelēz and its Nabisco products have rapidly grown from one Oregon plant two weeks ago to now six locations affecting roughly 1,000 workers, or about 6% of its U.S. workforce. It is the first strike in 52 years for Nabisco employees, and it comes as food manufacturers and other sectors in the U.S. economy struggle to hire enough workers.
The six Nabisco facilities being impacted include three that produce a variety of cookies and crackers, with the other three locations responsible for distributing product. Each facility has contingency plans to deal with potentially disruptive events like strikes and weather issues, said Laurie Guzzinati, a Mondelēz spokesperson.
The sites being impacted by the strike continue to operate, having put in place their business continuity plans to support snack production and distribution, she said.
"We are committed to and have confidence that we will continue to meet the needs of our customers and consumers in light of this situation," Guzzinati said.
Across the CPG space, employees who strike now may benefit from the inability of many companies to fully staff their operations. Food and beverage makers could have little choice but to give up more in negotiations in order to keep the production lines running.
Mondelēz isn't the only food company to be hit with a strike recently. Hundreds of Frito-Lay workers in Topeka, Kansas, walked off the job for three weeks in July to protest back-to-back 12-hour shifts with eight hours off in between. Employees had forced overtime and some had 84-hour workweeks. The workers, also represented by the same union as those striking at Mondelēz, are back on the job after ratifying a new contract that guarantees one day off each week.
While this recent labor unrest only affected two companies, and the Frito-Lay strike has been settled, employees and unions are no doubt watching what happens with the strikes at Mondelēz. If more workers at other CPGs decide to head for the picket lines in an effort to extract more concessions, manufacturers could be under pressure to quickly settle.
"The hope is that we can move beyond these negotiations," Guzzinati said of Mondelēz, "because those employees and those sites have an important role in our future as a company."