By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Flanked by workers from Nabisco Co., Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. welcomed a call for a national boycott of Nabisco products made in Mexico.
Jackson accused the company of “corporate greed” with its plans to move its company and 600 jobs from the West Side of Chicago to Mexico where labor is cheaper.
“They make Oreo cookies. Now, if the jobs go (to Salinas, Mexico) so is my appetite going. These workers on the West Side are making $25 an hour,” Jackson said. “These workers have homes, children in schools. They buy cars. Some have been there as long as 52 years making cookies. Their jobs are leaving this country.”
Last year, Mondelez International—Nabisco’s parent company—reportedly made more than $29 billion in profits. Last summer, Mondelez announced it would eliminate 600 jobs from the Southwest Side plant located at 7300 So. Kedzie Avenue. The site is the oldest and largest, predominantly Black workplace in Illinois. Some of the workers are too young to collect Social Security and too old to find other comparable jobs.
Standing with Jackson was Elce Redmond, an organizer with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers (BCTGM) Union Local 300. He spoke about one worker named James, who has worked at Nabisco for 35 years. “Our fight is to save the jobs at Nabisco,” Redmond said.
The Deerfield, Illinois-based company makes a myriad of products, especially the popular Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies and Wheat Thins crackers. Nabisco officials have vowed to cut its 1,200 workers.
Earlier this year, BCTGM filed a federal lawsuit and a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the parent company in an effort to stop the layoffs. Nabisco recently laid off 277 workers.
“This company has been iconic,” said Redmond. “Everyone here knows the Oreo. Everyone here is eating Chips Ahoy cookies and has had a Wheat Thin. These are iconic brands and those brands have been made by workers here. Our fight is to keep these jobs. They want to take good paying jobs from Chicago, and they want to take them to Mexico where they exploit our brothers and sisters.”
Redmond went on to say that workers in Mexico only make $4 a day and cannot support their families there.
“This whole move is nothing more than corporate greed itself, so we’re standing together with the workers. We’re saying we will not allow these jobs to leave,” said Redmond.
Redmond said they are planning massive demonstrations against Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and CEO of the Mondelez International Company. Many went to her home in Kenilworth, an affluent suburb in Chicago’s posh North Shore region. Rosenfeld reportedly makes $20 million a year. Many say her success is off the backs of the workers from Nabisco’s Chicago plant.
“This fight will continue and we are also working with the workers in Mexico to ensure that they have living wages as well. This is a fight that is incredibly important; $25-an-hour (jobs) that are leaving our city affects our city, affects our communities, affects their families and the tax base of the city. We cannot allow this,” said Redmond.
Jackson quoted Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump who said, “These jobs should not go.” He also said, “But, when the families say these jobs should not go, the difference is when the families say it is because of corporate greed, Trump says it’s because of Mexicans.
“Mexicans who are making $1-an-hour are not taking jobs from us. We’re taking jobs to them. It’s not Mexico. We are taking their labor and making a profit, and that is the sin of greed. As the jobs leave, our appetites leave,” Jackson said.