Nabisco Workers End Weekslong Strike After Reaching New Contract
A weekslong strike by Nabisco employees in five states ended on Saturday, as their union announced that its members had overwhelmingly approved a …
A weekslong strike by Nabisco employees in five states ended on Saturday, as their union announced that its members had overwhelmingly approved a four-year contract with the parent company of the maker of Oreos, Ritz Crackers and other snacks.
The employees are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which had clashed with Nabisco’s owner, Mondelez International, over proposed changes to shift lengths and overtime rules.
The strike had brought renewed attention to the snack giant, which had faced criticism from union members over long shifts, pensions and the production of some products in Mexico, a move that Donald J. Trump criticized as a presidential candidate.
“This has been a long and difficult fight for our striking members, their families and our union,” Anthony Shelton, the union’s president, said in a statement on Saturday. “Throughout the strike, our members displayed tremendous courage, grit and determination.”
In an update posted on its website Saturday, Mondelez said that the striking workers would return to their jobs this week.
“Our goal has always been to reach agreements that would provide our union-represented colleagues with good wages and competitive benefits, while also positioning our U.S. bakeries and sales distribution facilities for future growth and success,” Glen Walter, an executive vice president of North America for Mondelez, said in a statement.
“We look forward to welcoming back our B.C.T.G.M.-represented colleagues and returning to normal production and distribution to customers and consumers,” he said, referring to the union.
On its website, Mondelez said the new agreement was retroactive to March 1 of this year and included “hourly wage increases each year of the contract, increased company match to 401(k) contributions and updates to certain workplace policies.”
The union did not immediately respond to questions about the specific terms of the agreement. According to photos of the agreement posted on Twitter by More Perfect Union, an organization that produces “media that empowers working people,” the workers will get raises of 2.25 percent in 2021 and 60 cents per hour in each of the next three years.
The photos also indicated that the contract includes a $5,000 bonus, with the company doubling its 401(k) matching contributions from 25 percent to 50 percent for up to 6 percent of employees’ eligible pay starting in 2022.
Though the union’s previous contract expired months ago, the impasse began in earnest in August, when workers at a Nabisco bakery in Portland, Ore., went on strike. Their union contended that Mondelez had sought unreasonable contract concessions during a period of strong revenue gains for the company.
Workers in Colorado, Virginia, Illinois and Georgia followed suit, with more than 1,000 Nabisco employees taking part in the strike, the union estimated. The strike affected three bakeries and three small sales distribution facilities, according to Mondelez, which is based in Chicago.
As the strike wore on, tensions mounted over the contract dispute — and as Mondelez disclosed its profits. For the three months ending in June, the company reported a 12 percent gain in revenue compared with the previous year.
Last week in Portland, striking workers on a picket line blocked several vehicles trying to leave a Nabisco plant, leading to an altercation with security guards, the television station KATU reported.
During the contract negotiations, the union had pressed Mondelez to restore a pension plan for Nabisco employees, which it had replaced with a 401(k) program in 2018.
A key point of contention between the union and the company involved overtime: Mondelez wanted some Nabisco employees to work for shifts of up to 12 hours without being eligible for overtime pay, in exchange for working fewer days a week. Those on weekend shifts, previously eligible for extra pay, would get the premium only after working 40 hours in a week. Those weekend shifts will mostly be filled by newer employees under the terms of the agreement, according to the contract photos posted online.