Machinists and electricians get raises of as much as $10,000 at Nabisco

From Don McIntosh

After two years of negotiation, the company did not make an acceptable offer until 32 union machinists and 10 electricians prepared to strike at Mondelēz’s Portland Nabisco Bakery in Portland Nabisco. On February 2, members of Machinists Local Lodge 63 and IBEW Local 48 ratified two union agreements that increase wages by $ 6,000 to $ 10,000 a year or more.

Members of the two unions work together to maintain and repair the machines that turn flour and sugar into crackers from Oreos and Ritz. Your unions also negotiate together. But things didn’t go well for the longest time: Mondelēz pushed for proposals in which the members did not want to participate, such as a shift to a work week of three 12-hour days.

“In terms of the length and amount of effort it took to get a contract, it wasn’t anything I experienced,” said Mike Bridges, Local 48 business rep, a union negotiator since 2011. Six union members and employees met with six corporate negotiators 41 times in over two years. The turnover of the Mondelēz management was so high that in the end only one of the six original negotiators was left. The last session, brokered by Federal Mediator Darrell Clark, lasted from 9 a.m. to midnight.

What made the difference Jeff Obermiller, chief administrator for the machinists, says unquestionably that members of the company demonstrated they were ready to strike. When Mondelēz said his offer was not going to get any better, the two unions withdrew it from the members. They refused and voted unanimously to allow a strike. In the weeks that followed, workers whistled to and from work and came to work wearing union T-shirts. The machinists’ shirts featured a coiled cobra over the union logo that said, “If I am provoked, I can strike.” The electrician’s shirts said, “The lightning doesn’t make a sound … until it strikes!” Machinists also ended their shifts by placing their massive wheeled toolboxes near the building exit to indicate they were ready to roll out in the event of a strike. The unions also sought support from the rest of the labor movement … and received strike sanctions from the Metal Trades Council in the Portland area and the Northwest Oregon Labor Council. This support meant that if hit, not only could the machines start to stutter, but the product could have trouble getting out of the factory if pickets turn back Teamster drivers.

What they won

READY TO ROLL-OUT: At the Portland Mondelēz-Nabisco plant, union machinists placed their toolboxes near the exit in preparation for a strike.

For the machinists, the new contract includes an immediate 9% wage increase, increasing the base wage from $ 30.30 to $ 33.12 per hour. You’ll also receive cash back checks for over $ 4,000 for wage increases that should have happened earlier – 2% annual increases as of January 1, 2018. The new contract also maintains the existing eight hour Monday through Friday schedule for shifts with paid breaks plus an hour and a half for Saturday work, double the time on Sunday and the right to choose up to 26 weekends per year if they cannot be scheduled. And it maintains current health benefits, pledges the company to continue to participate fully in the union-sponsored Western Metals Industry Pension Fund, and pledges to a set schedule of responding to union complaints. Machinist members made a concession and passed the work on lubricating equipment to their somewhat poorly paid employees at Baker’s Local 364. That postponement will not result in layoffs, however, and Mondelēz also pledged to hire a new machinist to go through a training program that had no new entrants recently.

Machinists’ representative, Bob Petroff, himself a former machinist from Nabisco, says Mondelēz has had a hard time finding outside machinists who are qualified to maintain and repair bakery machines.

For electricians, the new contract provides for a wage increase of USD 10,000, which was previously agreed in negotiations. According to Bridges, the Mondelēz union has repeatedly warned that the $ 30.30 hourly wage for maintenance electricians was well below the market and would result in the loss of electricians. When the plant’s electrical workforce dropped from nine to two, the company got the news.

Machinists and electricians jointly ratified a preliminary memorandum raising the wages for maintenance electricians to $ 40.80. That’s still a lot less than construction electricians, but Mondelēz electricians get paid vacation and year-round indoor work.

The new contracts expire on December 31, 2020.

Baker still in weak contract

Around 210 members of Local 364 from Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) now work at the Portland plant under a mixture of expired contract language and conditions unilaterally imposed by the company. BCTGM’s most recent national contract, which covers 2,000 Mondelēz employees in five U.S. plants and three distribution centers, expired on February 29, 2016. In May 2018, Mondelēz brought negotiations to a standstill and unilaterally implemented parts of its own offer: Increase wages by 2.25% per year, stop contributions to the union-sponsored pension fund and start contributions to a 401 (k). Mondelēz is still adhering to some of the terms of the old contract and has failed to implement other parts of its final offer, such as less generous health insurance terms or termination of weekend work premium payments. The contract, which both sides should negotiate, expires on March 1st. It is not clear what will happen after that.

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