Echoing elected officials’ call for a boycott of Oreos and other snack foods made by Mondelez International, the union whose members will lose their jobs when the company closes its Northeast Philadelphia plant next year also is asking the public not to buy the company’s products.
Mondelez, which split off from Kraft in late 2012, makes quite a few popular and well-known snacks: Or-eos, Chips Ahoy, Triscuits, New-tons and Ritz crack-ers are just a few of its brands. Mondelez also makes the or-ange-flavored break-fast drink Tang, Tri-dent gum and Cad-bury chocol-ates. And, it sells them all over the world.
Where they’re made, however, is the point of the boycott.
John Lazar, president of Loc-al 492 of the Bakery, To-bacco and Con-fec-tion-ery Work-ers’ Uni-on, said jobs of the unionized employees at the company’s Northeast bakery at the Boulevard and Byberry Road are heading to Mexico.
A company spokeswoman countered that Mondelez is a strong company that is committed to the United States. “I would hope consumers would look at us and see a global company with a strong U.S. presence,” said spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati.
A month ago, the company announced 350 employees would lose their jobs early next year when Mondelez closes the bakery that had opened as a Nabisco plant in the mid-1950s.
Public officials joined union members in decrying the company’s decision to close in Philly and spend $130 million to expand facilities in Fair Lawn, N.J., and Richmond, Va. State Sen. Mike Stack and state Reps. Kevin and Brendan Boyle said they were no longer going to buy the company’s products.
Kevin Boyle in mid-February labeled the company’s decision to quit Philly a betrayal of the American dream. Not only that, Lazar said, it’s a betrayal of American consumers.
“Nobody makes the products better than we do,” he said in a Feb. 28 phone interview.
In an open letter to Philadelphia residents, the union local wrote their company has changed since it was acquired by Kraft Foods Global in 2002 and then spun off as a separate company called Mondelez in late 2012.
“Since the creation of Mondelez, Nabisco has been the victim of a company that has little or no concern for the quality of its products, and no regard for the proud individuals that produce those products,” the union letter stated. To provide more money to company executives and shareholders, popular product lines like Fig Newtons and Graham crackers have been moved to Mexico, the union letter continued.
Guzzinati said comments about jobs going to Mexico is misinformation. “It’s not the case,” she said. She said the move out of Philadelphia is designed to reinforce the company’s North American business.
Guzzinati said it wouldn’t be appropriate to speculate on the impact of the product boycott the union is proposing.
“The effectiveness of a boycott depends on the vulnerability of the company,” said Ram Mudambi, professor and Perelman research fellow at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “I’m not sure Mondelez is in a vulnerable state,” he added.
The company has $35 billion in global sales, and Brendan Boyle described it recently as a strong, profitable corporation.
A product boycott becomes more of a public-relations issue than a financial issue, Mudambi said. “Companies don’t like bad PR,” he said. “It hurts their brand equity.” It also affects shareholder value, he said.
“Everything we do matters,” said Kevin Boyle. He said he strongly supports the boycott. He said it will have an impact on the company if enough people support it.
“The success of the boycott may not be measured solely in economic impact,” Sen. Stack, another boycott supporter, stated in an email to the Northeast Times. “We need to stand up to corporations that show so little respect for the people that buy their products and the people that made their company.” ••