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. ••