Workers at Nabisco, the company that makes snacks like Oreos, Fig Newtons and Wheat Thins, have been on strike since August 10th. The strike began at a bakery in Portland, Oregon and has since spread to Aurora, Colorado and Richmond, Virginia.
Workers have described regularly working 12-hour days and up to 16 hours per shift, often 6 and 7 days per week. One worker described the effects, “You get tired, you want to be home with your family, but it’s extremely hard to have life outside of work.” During the pandemic, Nabisco workers were classified as “essential workers,” and worked extremely long hours.
The company is currently trying to push through an “alternative work week schedule” which would mean that people would work 12 hour shifts, for 3 or 4 days a week. The new proposal also denies time-and-a-half pay for working more than eight hours a day, time-and-a-half pay on Saturdays, and double time for working on Sundays. In other words, they are proposing a drastic pay cut!
The company is also proposing a two-tier system for health premiums, which would make new-hires have to pay more for their health care than older workers. This is nothing but a divide and conquer tactic to generate a split between the older and newer workers.
Earlier this year two Nabisco bakeries were closed, one in Fairlawn, New Jersey and one in Atlanta Georgia, costing the jobs of around 1,000 people. The company is using the threat of shutting down facilities to bully the workers into accepting concessions.
Meanwhile, Nabisco and its parent company, Mondelēz have cleaned up over the recent period. Mondelēz saw its revenues increase 2.8% in fiscal year 2020, which is a net increase of $26.6 billion. Mondelēz also saw its profits nearly double over the last quarter. Last year, the CEO received compensation of $18 million, which is 561 times what the average worker received.
But by going on strike to fight against these concessionary proposals, workers at Nabisco have begun to draw the line in the sand. The strike, which has now spread to facilities in three states, has attracted considerable community support. Frito Lay workers in Kansas who were recently on strike themselves have sent pizzas in support of the striking workers. Even the actor Danny DeVito, has come out in support of the Nabisco workers. At times, picket lines have been festive with a lot of support from honking motorists. One worker described their coworkers say that, “I’ve never seen them so happy. People are smiling and laughing, dancing, and playing music.”
Workers at Nabisco are beginning to get a small taste of their power.