Militant Journalism

“Nabisco wants to take everything away from us”: Striking workers hold strong in Virginia

Photo: Striking Nabisco workers in Virginia

Liberation News recently went to the picket line outside of Richmond, Virginia to speak with Nabisco workers who are standing up for their rights. Workers are entering their third week nationally on strike, which has expanded to all plants owned by Nabisco since the first work stoppage was called on August 10 in Portland, Oregon.

The multinational, multi-billion dollar company Mondelez and its American subsidiary Nabisco have been making a killing, reporting a 12% increase in revenue for the most recent quarter. Unfortunately, the increase in profit has not led to the company hiring more workers to meet the ever-increasing demand for snack foods during the pandemic. Instead, Mondelez has been forcing its employees to work 12-hour shifts while at the same time pushing for concessions that would include a reduction in premium pay. Paired with a possibly weakened health insurance plan, a loss of their pension in 2019, and growing fears of Mondelez outsourcing jobs, Nabisco workers across five states had enough and went out on strike.

Liberation News spoke with Malcolm, a union steward for Local 358 representing Richmond Nabisco factory workers, who described how a multi-billion dollar company is trying to save money by cutting employee benefits and wages. “We’re here to rebuke Nabisco and the company on their corporate greed” he said. “They made, during the pandemic, about 28 billion. They want us to work mandatory overtime, but without premium wages and it isn’t fair. I get to spend less time with my family, and make more money … for their CEOs to spend time with their families in Boca Raton,” remarked Malcolm.

The atmosphere of togetherness and power was on full display, especially when Malcolm was asked about the importance of the strike: “It’s actually a selfless act … they want to mess with the benefits of retirees. So it’s not just about my own check, but the benefits of others. This isn’t easy, but at the end of the day it’s a necessary sacrifice.” All in all, Malcolm appeared positive on prospects for the strike, “I think that it comes out to $71 million per day [in lost profits]. I’m cool with that.” The strike makes it clear that without the workers, ovens remain cold. This factory produces nothing without the sweat and toil of the workers.

Mondelez, one of the world’s largest snack companies, is requiring their employees to work 12 hours shifts as their normal workday instead of an 8-hour shift. For the employees who used to receive overtime for those four extra hours, this is one issue among many they have with the company.

“[Nabisco] wants to take everything away from us and we’re trying to keep everything,” said one employee who works as a mechanic in the plant, referring to the benefits they previously had with Nabisco. “We made a lot of money for this company during the pandemic. We worked 12 hours even though they took away time and a half and overtime. We just want to keep what we have. We’re not asking for a whole lot. It’s nothing compared to what the company made or even the CEO’s bonus. To take stuff away from us after we made them billions of dollars? It’s not cool.”

Picketers were optimistic about their chances for victory, and did not believe Nabisco could produce anything with the temporary untrained workers they have been able to recruit. According to the picketers it takes at least six weeks for most positions to be trained so for the last three nothing has been produced in the plants by the small group of temp workers.

Nabisco workers are determined to keep up the fight, and solidarity from the rest of the working class can help them win. Food and drinks, money for their strike fund, respecting the boycott of Nabisco products, or even showing up to picket lines across the country is deeply appreciated. Workers are there 24/7 and have expressed that the more people who show up the sooner Nabisco will come to the table and sign a contract with the union.

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