“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
Aug 30, 2021
Over a thousand Nabisco workers walked off the job last month, starting in Portland, Oregon and now including bakeries and distribution centers in Chicago, in Aurora, Colorado, in Richmond, Virginia and in Norcross, Georgia. This is the first Nabisco strike in 50 years.
Workers have been pulling 16-hour, double shifts throughout the pandemic to bake Oreos, Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Ritz Crackers and Chips Ahoy. People stuck at home during the lockdowns bought more cookies and snacks. Corporate parent Mondelēz has profited handsomely off of workers’ sweat, raking in almost two billion dollars in profits so far this year.
But when their contract expired in May, Nabisco demanded workers switch to 12 hour shifts, and an end to weekend overtime pay, which together would cost workers thousands a year. Nabisco also proposed a second-tier healthcare plan for new hires. And they had already ended workers’ pension plan. As a forklift operator put it: “. . . they made record breaking profits, then they turn around and want to take everything from us.”
Workers’ response was to go on strike, starting in Portland on August 10th. They mean to push back on the company, to keep their pay, healthcare and pensions. They are following in the footsteps of 850 Frito-Lay workers, who struck for three weeks in July over many of the same issues.
In Chicago and Portland, Nabisco has tried to keep the lines running, using office workers and scabs. Chicago’s 24-hour picket line stayed spirited into its second week, and has been joined by workers from other unions, from the neighborhood and around the city.
Working people all over this country have suffered through this pandemic. Nabisco and Frito-Lay workers have chosen to fight back—certainly many more of us have reason to do the same. The fight by these bakery workers has every reason to spread.
A Chicago worker put it: "I feel that people should fight for what they believe in and be unified when doing so. If you don’t fight, you’ll crumble. . . They say ‘we care about you and your families.’ No you don’t, not when you’re forcing someone to work 16 hours and then double back and do another eight hours the next morning."