Northeast Times

Elected officials, union members decry closing of old Nabisco plant

  • State Senator Mike Stack says he will boycott Nabisco-made products due to Mondelez’s decision to ship jobs overseas during a Wednesday protest outside the plant. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • Councilman Brian O’Neill speaks at a protest in front of the Kraft factory at Byberry Road and Roosevelt Blvd. He says he is deeply upset about the decision to close down the plant in Northeast Philadelphia, where generations of workers will be laid off not due to profit loss, but ‘corporate greed to make more money elsewhere.’

  • Picketers protest on Wednesday afternoon.

State Sen. Mike Stack said Or­eos are his wife’s fa­vor­ite cook­ie, but he’s not go­ing to buy them any­more.

In fact, he and oth­er pub­lic of­fi­cials today said they’re go­ing to boy­cott Or­eos and plenty of oth­er snack foods be­cause the com­pany that makes them is go­ing to close its Phil­adelphia bakery, the old Nabisco plant at the Boulevard and By­berry, and send the 350 jobs that are there now over­seas next year.

Gathered out­side down the street from the plant, Stack, Reps. Kev­in and Brendan Boyle, and City Coun­cil­men Bri­an O’Neill and Bobby Hen­on joined uni­on mem­bers today to de­cry Mondelez In­ter­na­tion­al’s de­cision to shut down the bakery in early 2015 while spend­ing $130 mil­lion to ex­pand its fa­cil­it­ies in New Jer­sey and Vir­gin­ia.

Hard to fig­ure, said Brendan Boyle, since the North­east Phil­adelphia plant is prof­it­able, and Mondelez, which split off from Kraft Foods in 2012, is not a com­pany that has fallen on hard times.

The com­pany is ex­pand­ing its op­er­a­tions in Mex­ico, he said, where wages are low. “This is cor­por­ate greed on ster­oids,” Brendan Boyle said.

Kev­in Boyle called the com­pany’s de­cision uni­on-bust­ing and “a be­tray­al of the middle class, a be­tray­al of the Amer­ic­an dream.”

Cor­por­ate greed, Stack said, is erod­ing the Amer­ic­an eco­nomy.

Hold­ing up a pack­age of Or­eos, he said, “I’m not go­ing to eat these Or­eos any­more.”

He said he would boy­cott Kraft and Mondelez products as pick­eters hold­ing signs that read “Mondelez is un­pat­ri­ot­ic” ap­plauded and passing mo­tor­ists honked their car horns.

“I ad­vise every­body to boy­cott Kraft and Mondelez products,” Stack said, and Brendan Boyle said he was ready to ditch Or­eos.

The pick­eters who ap­plauded the elec­ted of­fi­cials’ speeches were the first out­side the plant since the 1960s, said John Laz­ar, pres­id­ent of the bakery work­ers uni­on loc­al. There was a strike then, he said, be­cause the work­ers wanted a nick­el more an hour.

BEGAN IN NOVEM­BER

In Novem­ber, the com­pany told its work­ers the plant might be closed, which promp­ted city and state of­fi­cials to ask the in­ter­na­tion­al snack maker what it would need to stay in Phil­adelphia. Com­pany ex­ec­ut­ives met with of­fi­cials, then met with the uni­on.

Noth­ing happened un­til earli­er this month, when Mondelez an­nounced it was leav­ing Philly.

“This was one long charade,” O’Neill said today. “The com­pany nev­er in­ten­ded to stay here. … Their fo­cus is some­where else.”

O’Neill said gov­ern­ment should not re­ward com­pan­ies for leav­ing Amer­ic­an fa­cil­it­ies, and ad­ded that Mondelez simply doesn’t care about what it leaves be­hind.

When the com­pany’s man­agers close the plant early next year, “Life will be the same for them,” he said.

New in­cent­ives need to be de­vised to bring com­pan­ies to the city, O’Neill said, and ad­ded, “This could be the poster child for a new kind of in­cent­ives.”

Hen­on, who said he had worked as an elec­tric­al con­tract­or in the plant, said any com­pany that is in­ter­ested in the prop­erty should con­tact the state or the city.

Laz­ar said sev­er­al products like Gra­ham Crack­ers that were made at the plant are now made else­where. There are no Fig New­tons made in the United States, he said.

He said uni­on rep­res­ent­at­ives met with com­pany ex­ec­ut­ives in Decem­ber and offered to ne­go­ti­ate labor agree­ments if the com­pany would move product lines back to Phil­adelphia, but he said the uni­on was told, “No products are com­ing back here.”

Laurie Guzzinati, Mondelez spokes­wo­man, said it is true that the com­pany is ex­pand­ing in Mex­ico and has had a plant in Monterey for about a dec­ade, but she re­peated that the com­pany is in­vest­ing heav­ily in New Jer­sey and Vir­gin­ia.

Asked about today’s call for a boy­cott, she said Mondelez is com­mit­ted to the U.S. mar­ket and hopes con­sumers un­der­stand that.

Mondelez is a glob­al com­pany. Among its many snack products are Or­eos, New­tons, Ritz crack­ers, Cad­bury chocol­ates and Tang. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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