Union workers urge boycott of Mondelez products

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.” ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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