Roughly 1,000 BCTGM Workers Now on Strike Across the Country Following Pay, Benefit Cuts; In the Last Seven Years Mondelez Has Closed Three U.S. BCTGM-Represented Bakeries and Shipped Nearly 2,000 Good, Middle-Class BCTGM Union Jobs Abroad
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote to Dirk Van de Put, Chief Executive Officer of Mondelez International, urging him to oversee good-faith negotiations for a fair contract between the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) and Nabisco, which is owned by Mondelez. Despite reports that Mondelez has generated over $1.1 billion in net earnings in Quarter 2 of 2021 – and chosen to repurchase $1.5 billion worth of its shares over the last six months – the company has elected to cut pay and benefits, forcing the hand of the roughly 1,000 BCTGM workers now on strike across the country. These actions by Mondelez follow a pattern of shutting down U.S.-based facilities, like those recently closed in New Jersey and Georgia, and moving production to Mexico.
“BCTGM workers have faced difficult and challenging worker conditions throughout the pandemic,” wrote the senators. “Amid a surge in demand for groceries, BCTGM workers have adapted to new conditions, faced uncertainty about safety concerns, and increased their hours worked. Mondelez International should be rewarding its workers, not calling for cuts to pay and benefits to workers while it engages in short-term and short-sighted approaches to increase its share price.”
Earlier this year, Brown introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, comprehensive labor legislation to protect workers’ right to stand together and bargain for fairer wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces. Unions are critical to increasing wages and addressing growing income inequality—with studies showing that union members earn on average 19 percent more than those with similar education, occupation, and experience in a non-union workplace. The PRO Act would reverse years of attacks on unions and restore fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal laws that protect workers’ right to join a union and bargain for higher wages and better benefits.
Brown recently unveiled the Stock Buyback Accountability Act, which will prioritize real investment in the economy over Wall Street shareholder giveaways in the form of stock buybacks.
U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also signed the letter.
The full text of the letter is available here and below:
September 13, 2021
Dirk Van de Put
Chief Executive Officer
100 Deforest Avenue
East Hanover, NJ 07936
Dear Mr. Van de Put:
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reminded of our nation’s true heroes: its workers. Time and again, we have seen frontline workers rise to meet the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus. This has been no less true at Nabisco where your employees have helped Mondelez achieve higher profits during this most recent quarter. For this reason, it is imperative that Mondelez negotiate, in earnest, a fair contract with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). Such a contract must acknowledge the essential role your workers play in the company’s success, and reward them accordingly.
As you know, approximately 1,000 BCTGM workers are on strike across the country. Strikes started in Portland, Oregon, but they have now spread to Colorado, Virginia, Illinois, and Georgia. We understand that the strikes are ongoing because the company has called for cuts to pay and benefits, despite reports that the company has generated over $1.1 billion in net earnings in Quarter 2 of 2021 and chosen to repurchase $1.5 billion worth of its shares over the last six months.
BCTGM workers have faced difficult and challenging worker conditions throughout the pandemic. Amid a surge in demand for groceries, BCTGM workers have adapted to new conditions, faced uncertainty about safety concerns, and increased their hours worked. Mondelez International should be rewarding its workers, not calling for cuts to pay and benefits to workers while it engages in short-term and short-sighted approaches to increase its share price.
We understand that you are not only opting against sharing profits with your workers by negotiating a fair contract, you are also proposing to “eliminate premium pay for weekend work and daily overtime pay; dilute health care benefits; and end attendance bonuses.” Every CEO recites the truism that their workers are their biggest asset and critical to their success. What needs to follow these words is action – rewarding workers does not mean increasing healthcare premiums or reducing pay.
Our concerns about this contract negotiation do not arise in a vacuum. Mondelez appears to have undertaken a trend of shutting down U.S.-based facilities, like those recently closed in New Jersey and Georgia, and moving production to Mexico. It is our understanding that, in the last seven years, Mondelez has closed three U.S. BCTGM-represented bakeries, downsized others and shipped nearly 2,000 good, middle-class BCTGM union jobs abroad.
Companies across the United States are recognizing the need to invest in American facilities, workers, and communities. As lawmakers, we take note of the companies that run counter to this trend, particularly when threats to shift production to Mexico are used to avoid negotiated collective bargaining agreements in the United States, a violation of federal labor law.
Today, we ask that the company negotiate a fair contract, bargain in good faith with these workers, and opt to reward its workers during quarters of higher profits. We also ask that the company halt its chronic offshoring of jobs and short-sighted race to the bottom approach to its workers.
Finally, recognizing the importance of replying to congressional inquiries, we would reiterate several questions that have been posed by some of our colleagues in prior letters:
- With continued U.S. plant closures, what reassurances do our Portland, Chicago, and Richmond BCTGM members and others around the country have that their jobs are safe?
- With the most recent plant closures in New Jersey and Georgia, which Mondelez facilities absorbed that production?
- What is the total number of Mondelez plant closures in the U.S. and corresponding job losses?
- How many production jobs have been added to Mexican Mondelez facilities, supplying the U.S. market?
- How has Mondelez complied with USMCA in regards to expanding collective bargaining in its Mexican facilities?