Posts Tagged ‘wages’

Mondelez Outsources Plant: Nabisco Jobs Leave Philadelphia for Mexico

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Nabisco Logo with the word "outsource" on the inside. On February 19, my 17-month-old son went to his first protest.  A number of people, including politicians, union representatives from around the country and employees of the Nabisco Plant in Northeast Philadelphia gathered to let Mondelez International know that they are outraged by the decision to close the iconic Philadelphia factory, which will leave about 350 people without jobs, including my husband.   As a pastor in Philadelphia, I am constantly preaching about kingdom-building.  As parents we are trying to raise our son as ethically as we know how and we want him to know that what corporations like Mondelez do to employees is not ethical. 

Mondelez, Kraft, and Nabisco are one in the same.  Kraft bought out Nabisco, then the company split into Kraft and Mondelez last year.  They make billions annually. 1.8 billion went to their share holders last year and their CEO took home $29 million, not including use of the company jet.  This is not a company that is hurting for money.  “This is a case of corporate greed on steroids,” State Representative Brendan Boyle said in the press conference held during the rally, “They brag about how much money they are making.”   He later wrote, “The decision to close the plant is a shocking window into the motives and agenda of Mondelez International and an example of the threat which outsourcing poses to working class families.”

Mondelez claims the production that will leave Philadelphia will go to strengthen the other east coast plants; however, the production lines that have already been leaving the factory in the past year have been going to the plant in Monterrey, Mexico.  Dan Melendez, Chief Stewart of the Philadelphia Nabisco Plant, informed me that the factory in Mexico has 2000 workers, which all make just over $3.00 an hour and they receive no benefits.  American Mondelez employees make $23 an hour on average, receive excellent benefits, a pension and a 401K. 

Kraft laid off 1600 American and Canadian employees when the company split and will lay off hundreds more within the year.  In response to the negative reactions about the Philadelphia plant closing, Mondelez reassures the public that they are going to invest in their other east coast plants.  What they are leaving out is that their investment is in new machines that will cause the lay off of more American workers. 

While all of this is happening, Dan Melendez said, Mondelez is investing $600 million to build the world's largest cookie plant in Mexico.  At low wages and no benefits, Mondelez is in effect, opening the biggest cookie sweat shop in the world.  It is slated to open at the same time the Philadelphia plant will close.  Ted Constable, of Local 358 in Richmond Virginia, added that the new plant will be built closer to the Texas border in a free trade zone, meaning no inspections and no guarantee in quality.  Corporations that build in free trade zones are given tax breaks, so, “as tax-payers, we are paying to get rid of our own jobs,” Melendez pointed out. 

Quote-box containing Dan Melendez statement.In addition to the unethical ways Mondelez is treating their employees, with no environmental laws, they can dump whatever they want into the water, causing further pollution to the earth.  That water is then put into the products in the factory.  On the bullhorn, John Lazar, a representative of the local union, asked passers-by, “Oreos will be made in Mexico, do you know what's in the water?”  He also stated in the press conference that “there is not one Fig Newton or Graham Cracker made in the U.S. anymore, they are all made in Mexico.”  After the new factory opens many more products will be produced in Mexico.    

State Senator Mike Stack and other elected officials stated they would boycott Kraft/Nabisco products.

Many people at the protest were discussing how big corporations, like Mondelez, are tearing apart the American middle class.  State Representative Kevin Boyle said, “it's a betrayal of the middle class, a betrayal of the American dream.” Constable said it's “unethical for them to strip the middle class from the U.S.  It's hurting American families.”  Zach Townsend of the Atlanta plant said, “It's a sad day for a lot of people because it means a loss of their house, and for some no college for their kids.”  

 State Representatives Boyle issued a statement, "It is clear, through their decision not to consider our offers and invitations, that Mondelez International’s decision to close the factory at Roosevelt and Byberry was driven by profits over people.”

Zach Townsend said the reason he came to the protest all the way from Atlanta was because, “this isn't a one-stop situation, it's an ongoing process.  If we don't stand up today, all of the jobs will be in Mexico.  We're not asking for anything special, just to keep our jobs.”

Edward Burpo of the Chicago plant also came out to support his brothers and sisters in Philadelphia, saying, “We as Americans want to work and want the company to keep production in America.” 

Everyone, not just Americans, have the right to a living wage, but that is not what Mondelez is ensuring for anyone.  They are paying their Mexican workers an unfair wage with no benefits, and they are cutting thousands of good-paying jobs in America.  We want to raise our son to be successful, but not at the cost of others.  I don't mind that my son didn't inherit my fiery red hair, but I hope he inherits my fiery spirit for justice.  This was his first protest and it won't be his last.  Even when it may seem hopeless, we will always fight to build the kingdom because it is what each and everyone of us are called to do. 

Wondering what you can do? Boycott all Kraft/Nabisco products made in Mexico (on the nutrition information panel it will say Made in Mexico).  Every purchase of one of these products is a vote supporting Mondelez.  Call 847-943-4000 and tell Mondelez you do not support them and will not buy their products that are Made in Mexico.

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Rev. Julia SingletonJulia Singleton is a mom, wife, pastor and advocate for social justice.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from La Salle University, her M.Div. from Drew Theological School and is currently serving a church in Philadelphia, PA.  

Thanksgiving by Another Name: Supporting Black Friday Actions by WalMart Workers

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Patch from Interfaith Worker Justice Website


You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

(2 Corinthians 9: 11-12)

Each year in November, we celebrate Thanksgiving with our families, and the next day, many of us spend the day shopping on Black Friday. Can we as people of faith try something different this year?

Thanksgiving Day is a time to be with our families, friends and our communities to share a bountiful meal around a table and honor what we’re most thankful for. In the U.S., it’s a national holiday to reflect on the many blessings we have received and remember those who are less fortunate. We remember those individuals locked in the prison-industrial complex, those suffering in our neighborhoods, our schools, and many others around the country and world. We say our prayers of thanksgivings; fill up on all food in sight, rest and sleep. The following day (or early morning hours) we wait in long lines to shop for the best Black Friday sales and deals. Sometimes shoppers wrestle, fight and struggle to get the best sale items.

This year, I challenge you to do something different.

Thanksgiving should provide our families with a renewed understanding of why it’s important to act on behalf of the poor particularly those workers who are treated unjustly. I’m talking about the workers who long to spend time with their family during the holiday season but they are left working without a living wage. The ones who stock our retail stores and tirelessly stand at cash registers barraged with both inconsequential questions and occasional insults.

I am talking about supporting Walmart workers as we move into this holiday season. Walmart is the largest private employer and the world’s largest retailer; with almost 1.4 million “associates” who work along their supply chain. Unfortunately, nearly one half of Walmart’s store associates earn less than $25,000 annually and need to rely on public assistance and social services to survive. Walmart is forcing taxpayers to supplement this corporate greed. The government, other organizations and church programs should not subsidize multi-billion dollar corporations to provide the bare minimum to any worker.  

Walmart’s slogan, “Save money, Live better,” is in direct opposition of the poverty facing many Walmart workers because of the corporation’s poor wages and sporadic hours. Walmart cut hours and make their workers part-time so they do not have to provide them benefits. Healthcare is not even affordable. Often times, other than not being provided a livable wage, workers are not given dependable, predictable schedules so workers have to be on-call unable to schedule other job opportunities or work other jobs. 

Many Walmart workers are standing up and calling for the dignity and respect they deserve on the job. The Organization United for Respect at Walmart (made up of current and former Walmart workers), community, and national groups like Interfaith Worker Justice where I work are leading actions, rallies and prayer vigils on Black Friday at stores all across the country to pressure Walmart to treat their workers better. I urge you to live out your faith on Black Friday by joining or leading a Black Friday action or prayer vigil in your community. Together let’s tell Walmart executives and managers know that we care about the way they treat their workers more than we care about special Black Friday deals and savings! Learn more about Interfaith Worker Justice’s campaign for Dignity and Respect at Walmart  and to get involved!

It’s time to act, and show our thanks in a different way.  Let’s use this holiday season to honor the needs of God’s people, be generous in support, and aid in their struggle for justice. Let’s act in thanksgiving for our gifts by helping Walmart workers earn better wages, better benefits and working conditions. It’s the abundance we receive that calls us to be a blessing to others.

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Mistead Sai is a US-2 missionary for the United Methodist through the General Board of Global ministries. Mistead Said serves at Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) as their Worker Center Network Assistant providing support to worker center affiliates nationwide. Mistead received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at the University of Maryland. He enjoys intellectual conversations, likes documentaries, and has taken a liking to investigating issues surrounding environmental racism, biopolitics, and identity politics in recent months.

The State of the Union & Labor: Race and Gender

Monday, August 26th, 2013

(part 2 of 4)

Steve Visits the 2nd March on Washington

I must confess: as a middle-aged, white man I feel woefully inadequate writing on the subject of work/employment and how they are impacted by race and gender.  I’m questioning why I feel so compelled to write about race and gender as one blog rather than two.  What right do I have to think that I have something meaningful to offer? 

In the midst of my questioning, Alan Van Capelle, former executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda (NY) came to mind. Speaking back in 2005 about the importance of working with straight allies and straight clergy, he said, “If it’s just LGBT people talking and organizing, then we lose.”  I also think of my seminary classes with Dr. Delores Williams.  She introduced me to “Womanist Theology” and got me looking down the road of intersectional justice issues.  I remembered discovering how my people, those raised with a White-Oriented Male-Dominated Approach to Theology (the WOMDATs as I called us back then) had attempted to divide and conquer marginalized people to in a seeming attempt slow the progress of justice movements and limit the gains their social achievements.  Dr. Williams introduced me to thinkers like Paula Giddings (through When and Where I Enter – I highly recommend), Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; and, Angela Davis’s Women, Race and Class

I need to write on the topic of Labor, Race and Gender simply because we have reached a point in the movement for human dignity and rights that depends on none of us being silent or separated from one another, neither because of our privileges and/or marginalization. Or as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly put it, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Some seem to think that we are living in a post-civil rights or post-racism era but I believe they are far from informed.  While we have made significant strides in some areas over the past 150+ years, all anyone has to do is keep up with the current trends in voting rights suppression laws, unemployment statistics, racial profiling, mass incarceration issues and reports from groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (monitoring hate groups) to know we are not past racism and institutionalized prejudice.  In fact, in June of 2005, the American Sociological Association (ASA) published a series on this very matter, entitled: “Race, Ethnicity, and the American Labor Market: What’s at Work?”  Some of their conclusions were quite telling about how deeply our institutional racism and sexism may run  and how the changes in work climate and the type of economy we are developing may be making institutionalized workplace bias even more covert and subjective than ever –

1)       “Occupational data are another indicator of racial and ethnic labor market disparities. One-third of white men and nearly one-half of Asian men are employed in managerial, professional, and related occupations, compared with one-fifth of African American men and one-seventh of Hispanic men. Conversely, more than one-quarter of both African American and Hispanic men hold jobs in production, transportation, and material moving occupations, compared with less than one-fifth of white men and less than one-seventh of Asian men. A disproportionately high percentage of African American and Hispanic women, compared with white and Asian women, are employed in service occupations such as food preparation, cleaning, and personal care. These occupations are often in work environments characterized by poor pay, few benefits, and little career mobility.” This is often referred to in this article as “occupational segregation.”

2)       “According to sociological research, occupational segregation helps explain persistent wage gaps between whites and both African Americans and Hispanics, especially for women.”  If you don’t think that pay equality and gender is still an issue, please read the latest case dealing with pay equality (and don’t miss tall the recent cases in the box on the right) that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEO) is fighting.

3)       “Sociological research documents a wide range of processes through which employers sort and rank workers, and workers jockey for positions in the labor market. For employers, the result is a ‘job queue,’ a ranking of workers from perceived best to perceived worst… In today’s service-based economy, employers often emphasize a preference for ‘soft skills’ (an array of employee characteristics that are subjectively evaluated by employers. They include how individuals look and dress and their manner of speaking; whether they are perceived to be team players; perceived motivation, cheerfulness, and interpersonal skills; and perceived ability to represent the organization), creating potential for bias in workplace decisions.” 

Last Friday, while in the midst of the 50th Anniversary events of the March on Washington, I attended a “town hall meeting” on race and poverty sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.  One speaker in particular stood out for me: Darnell L. Moore.  He quoted statistics from memory: “a poverty rate in the US of 15%, meaning 46.2 million people (or 1 in 7) live in poverty. Of those, 20.4% are now living in what is being termed “deep poverty”.  More than one-fourth of all Black people are unemployed or underemployed.  60% of Black women who are elderly are living in poverty.  Of the 27.6% of Black people who are poor, there are 5 million more Black women than men who are in poverty” (remember wage inequality) “and if you are Black and Gay or Lesbian, you run an even higher risk of being in poverty.  Keep in mind that 40% of all homeless individuals now are LGBT youth… The problem is that we are facing multi-dimensional, intersectional issues and trying to deal with them with a monolithic solution.”  Moore then challenged us, his audience, to grow our work together and not let the issues of human rights and dignity to be separated out.  “It’s not just about asking, ‘whose feet are situated on our necks?’  It’s also about asking, ‘whose necks are your feet situated on?’”  In a Huffington Post blog Moore has said, “single-variable politics and movement work solely focused on one issue will always result in limited gains.”

The playing field has changed, but it needs to be completely transformed.  No longer can we waste time and energy fighting over which disenfranchised group gets to get a piece of the WOMDAT pie first.  Now, it’s about all of us together, figuring out what kind of new economic, inclusive, equal opportunity pie we all going to make instead! Darnell Moore gave me hope on Friday! 

On Saturday, as I watched different groups commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, I had even greater hope!  That hope came from the labor movement, who like 1963, showed up in force.  It came from women and people of all different hues taking center stage like never before to advocate for the rights of all.  It came from a list of problems that seem almost overwhelming at times, but when you see all the people who are working and willing to see their issue and your issue as inter-dependant, you begin to realize this can really happen!  I also found hope in an amazingly articulate, courageous and limitless 9 year old named Asean Johnson. 

I’ll share more about Asean’s dream in the next blog on children and how their exploitation, access to food security and affordable quality education are crucial for the future of our society.

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Rev. Steve Clunn serves as the Coalition Coordinator for the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Clergy in the Upper New York Annual Conference, Steve's work at MFSA focuses on coordinating United Methodist caucus groups in their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the Church.

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