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In a major showdown against Nabisco parent company Mondelez, hundreds of Oreo and Ritz cracker workers went on strike.

Last week, the work stoppage began at Portland, Oregon’s manufacturing facility. It has now expanded to Aurora, Colorado as well as another Richmond production facility. Workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union are involved in this strike.BCTGM), which hasn’t been able to reach an agreement with Mondelez on new contracts.

Both union and worker representatives claim the strike comes after years of frustration with Mondelez. The company was founded in 2012 by Nabisco when its products were discontinued. spun off from Kraft Foods. Mondelez demands changes to the pay and insurance coverage, which would weaken what has long been a solid, middle-class production line and trucking job, they claim.

“We’re not on strike to secure huge gains. We’re on strike to keep what we’ve already got,” said Cameron Taylor, the business agent at BCTGM Local 364, which represents workers at the Portland plant. “The job they want to give us wouldn’t even be worth fighting for.”

Taylor said Mondelez wants to ditch the premium pay system that’s long been in place and that guarantees 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. Instead, workers would be paid “straight time” until they hit a full 40-hours, regardless of what days they work or how long those days last.

Mondelez spokesperson Laurie Guzzinati said the company has proposed an “alternative work schedule” for some employees who would work 12-hour shifts three or four days a week. Guzzinati explained that this schedule would provide a three-day weekend each week while helping to meet the production needs of its most in-demand products.

However, workers claimed that this plan would drain thousands from their pocket each year. Mike Burlingham, who’s been at the Portland site for 14 years and works in pest control, said the proposal would encourage imposing longer shifts on workers because they would be cheaper for the company, even though the schedule can already be a grind.

“My longest stretch without a single day off was five weeks, and it’s worse for other people,” said Burlingham, 39, who also serves as vice president of the Oregon local. “Their whole thing is to remove paying out premiums.”

Burlingham claimed that his top salary is $29 an hour while the average wage for new employees is closer to $20. According to Burlingham, some employees could see a loss of $10,000 per annum if they were not subject to the premiums.

“The job they want to give us wouldn’t even be worth fighting for.”

Cameron Taylor, Business Agent at BCTGM 364

Keith Bragg of BCTGM 358 Richmond said his workers are in agreement. Bragg, who has been working at the plant for 45 years, makes Ritz, Oreos, and Chips Ahoy.

If the company secures this new pay structure in its contracts, Bragg said, “We wouldn’t be one of those places where people want to come and make a career out of it. … The money, the benefits ― these are things we fought for over the years.”

In addition to changing premiums, the company’s proposal would also put new hires on a less-generous health plan while maintaining the status quo for existing employees, union representatives said. Such “two-tier” benefit systems can sow acrimony within unions since different groups of workers are treated differently under the same contract.

Mondelez said in a statement that it was “disappointed” to see three locations go on strike: “Our goal has been — and continues to be — to bargain in good faith with the BCTGM leadership across our U.S. bakeries and sales distribution facilities to reach new contracts that continue to provide our employees with good wages and competitive benefits.”

The company said its most recent proposal was focused on “setting up our U.S. bakeries for future investment and long-term success.”

Bragg claimed that workers were upset at the Nabisco closures in New Jersey/Georgia this year. Fair Lawn bakery, New Jersey was closed for 63 yearsThe Atlanta bakery was able to employ 600 people. 80 yearsThere were 400 people employed. Mondelez also made headlinesAfter it moved some Oreo products to Mexico, the Trump administration won the 2016 election.

The BCTGM says Mondelez wants to transfer more production work out of the country, but Guzzinati insisted the closures in New Jersey and Georgia were “not about Mexico.” She said the two facilities were outdated and the company wanted to consolidate production elsewhere.

The union says outsourcing is one of its top concerns in the contract talks, and it wants the company to guarantee certain levels of production at the facilities covered under the contracts ― something union representatives say Mondelez has refused to do.

“We go down to the grocers and we see all the product on the shelves says ‘Mexico,’” said Bragg. “But we make all this product five minutes away.”

Bragg stated that he doesn’t know how long the strike will last but claimed the workers of his Virginia plant would be willing to continue working for as long as it takes.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” he said.

Source: HuffPost.com.

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