The workers who used to make Oreo cookies on Chicago's southwest side - and saw their jobs outsourced to Mexico - brought their campaign for justice to the University of MInnesota recently as part of a nationwide tour of college campuses.
Michael Smith, who lost his job last year at the Chicago plant along with about 600 other workers, and Elce Redmond, an organizer for the Bakery Confectionery Tobacco & Grain Millers union, which represents the workers, visited the Twin Cities as part of the Nabisco 600 tour. They addressed students in college classes and met with unions representing workers at the University, including AFSCME, the Teamsters and SEIU.
In July 2015, Nabisco announced it was moving production of Oreos and other snacks to a new $400 million plant in Salinas, Mexico, instead of investing that money in its iconic plant in Chicago. By making the decision to send production to Mexico, Nabisco is eliminating hundreds of middle class jobs in this heavily African American and Hispanic community in southwestern Chicago. The workers refused to accept $46 million in annual concessions, in perpetuity, something the company asked of no other bakery.
"We lost good-paying, family-sustaining jobs, our self-esteem, the future plans of our children and a future secure retirement all in one fell swoop," Smith said. "Those jobs we lost did not just vanish—they still exist to this day. But Mondelez, the parent of the Nabisco brands, moved those jobs to Mexico, where workers make pennies on the dollar compared to what we made making these products. Not because we were not already making great profits for the company, but because the company just wanted more profit ...
"There is not a dime’s worth of difference in what the company now charges for these products even though they pay Mexican workers pennies on the dollar with respect to what I was paid."
The union is asking people to boycott Oreos and other Nabisco products that have been outsourced to Mexico and has set up a website, www.fightforamericanjobs.org, to show how to identify where your purchases are made.
The U.S. workers are quick to point out that their campaign is not against Mexican workers - who they say are being exploited - but is focused on calling attention to the "bad business model" being pursued by Mondelez.
"This is all about a race to the bottom," Redmond said.