Northeast Times

Union boss discusses future expectations for workers

Uni­on reps of the em­ploy­ees who will lose their jobs early next year when what used to be the old Nabisco plant closes have not yet met with the Boulevard and By­berry fa­cil­ity’s own­er to ne­go­ti­ate sev­er­ance and oth­er be­ne­fits.

John Laz­ar, pres­id­ent of the bakery work­ers uni­on loc­al, said his mem­bers are hop­ing that Mondelez In­ter­na­tion­al will put to­geth­er some sort of job fair for em­ploy­ees.

Mondelez spokes­wo­man Laurie Guzzinati said that ques­tion and oth­ers would be linked to dis­cus­sions with the uni­on. Those talks, called “ef­fects bar­gain­ing,” Laz­ar said, haven’t taken place yet be­cause a uni­on rep who would be in­volved re­cently had sur­gery.

Ef­fects talks will in­clude dis­cus­sions of sev­er­ance and job op­por­tun­it­ies with­in the com­pany for those who will be laid off.

“A lot of the guys are in their fifties,” Laz­ar said dur­ing an April 3 phone in­ter­view. “It’s go­ing to be hard for them to find jobs.” He said he be­lieves sev­er­al are close to get­ting their pen­sions and would re­lo­cate to guar­an­tee that.  

He said he hopes the jobs fair idea, sug­ges­ted at a re­cent uni­on meet­ing, gets com­pany back­ing.

“I can’t see them hav­ing a prob­lem with that,” he said. “It would be cruel not to al­low it.” 

OLDER WORK­ERS’ WOES

“Many older, dis­placed work­ers have a neg­at­ive re-em­ploy­ment out­look,” ac­cord­ing to Tony Petrucci, as­sist­ant pro­fess­or in Temple Uni­versity’s Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment De­part­ment. That’s re­lated to lower ex­pect­a­tions, he wrote in an April 7 email to the North­east Times.

Those who show an in­tens­ity in look­ing for new jobs and de­vel­op net­work­ing are likely to have stronger and more pos­it­ive ex­pect­a­tions “which has led to pos­it­ive re-em­ploy­ment,” wrote Petrucci, who also is own­er of the Phil­adelphia-based ex­ec­ut­ive search firm Grav­itas.

But it’s not just the older work­ers’ at­ti­tudes that get in their way, he stated. The Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tun­ity Com­mis­sion has re­por­ted a steady rise in age dis­crim­in­a­tion over the years, he said. 

“Re­search has sup­por­ted these claims when com­par­ing young­er work­ers to older work­ers based on per­ceived com­pet­ence, at­tract­ive­ness, and be­ha­vi­or­al in­ten­tions,” ac­cord­ing to Petrucci. “Older work­ers also face la­bels such as lack­ing en­ergy, show­ing a lack of en­gage­ment, and res­ist­ance to change and learn­ing as well as cog­nit­ive de­teri­or­a­tion.”

While dis­ad­vant­aged by these opin­ions, older work­ers who are suc­cess­ful in the job mar­ket are those who have a pos­it­ive at­ti­tude and “provide evid­ence they are open to change, em­bra­cing tech­no­logy, are highly en­gaged and full of en­ergy and not look­ing to coast out their fi­nal work­ing years un­til re­tire­ment.”

Be­ing pos­it­ive is key, he said Monday, and that has to come off in phone in­ter­views.

“You have to smile over the phone,” Petrucci said. You can’t talk about how you were wronged by your former em­ploy­er be­cause nobody really cares, he said. You have to let pro­spect­ive em­ploy­ers know what you can do for them. It’s then they start con­sid­er­ing the be­ne­fits of years of ex­per­i­ence.

THE LAST YEAR

It’s been “busi­ness as usu­al” since Mondelez an­nounced in Feb­ru­ary that it will close the plant early next year, Laz­ar said, but he feels the real­ity of that is “really start­ing to hit home with some people.”

The plant opened as a Nabisco bakery in the mid-1950s and, at one point, was the tallest build­ing in the North­east. Nabisco even­tu­ally was ab­sorbed by Kraft, which split off its snack foods lines in­to Mondelez in late 2012. Among the foods Mondelez makes are Or­eos, Teddy Gra­hams, New­tons, Cad­bury chocol­ates and Tang.

In the fall, the com­pany told its North­east em­ploy­ees it was con­sid­er­ing clos­ing the fa­cil­ity and con­sol­id­at­ing op­er­a­tions in New Jer­sey and Vir­gin­ia. Guzzinati said the com­pany was go­ing to spend $130 mil­lion to ex­pand fa­cil­it­ies. Loc­al of­fice­hold­ers im­me­di­ately asked the com­pany’s ex­ec­ut­ives what they would re­quire to keep Mondelez and its more than 350 em­ploy­ees in Phil­adelphia. There was a meet­ing of those of­fice­hold­ers and com­pany ex­ec­ut­ives, but noth­ing came of it, and the com­pany an­nounced in early Feb­ru­ary that it was go­ing through with the clos­ing. Uni­on mem­bers dis­missed the idea that the 350 jobs lost to Phil­adelphia would stay in the United States. 

They claim Mondelez really is mov­ing its op­er­a­tions to Mex­ico, where it already has a plant and is build­ing an­oth­er. Last week, Loc­al 492 of the Bakery, To­bacco and Con­fec­tion­ery Work­ers’ Uni­on bought a full-page ad in the North­east Times in which the uni­on charged the com­pany was do­ing well and was mo­tiv­ated by greed. Mov­ing to Mex­ico would mean pay­ing a work­er an av­er­age of $21 per day.

Earli­er this year, Laz­ar said the North­east plant’s em­ploy­ees make $24-$26 per hour. 

In the loc­al’s ad last week, the uni­on urged con­sumers not to pur­chase any Mondelez products made in Mex­ico.

“By all means, please con­tin­ue to buy Amer­ic­an made Nabisco products,” the uni­on stated, “be­cause Amer­ic­an work­ers are truly thank­ful for your sup­port.”

Laz­ar said the com­pany is bring­ing in people to look at the plant’s real es­tate value and also to as­sess the value of the equip­ment at the site. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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