The Nabisco bakery strike in Northeast Portland had humble beginnings. In mid-August, the local bakers’ union took to picket lines along Columbia Boulevard, refusing a new contract workers said stripped them of overtime pay and robust health insurance.
Fast-forward a month and the strike has both expanded and intensified. Every single Nabisco facility on that contract in the nation is on strike: three bakeries and three distribution centers.
And in Portland, the brinksmanship now includes trains halting on railroad tracks, vans with tinted windows, and car alarms honking in a Marriott parking lot.
That’s because the bakery’s owner, Mondelez International, has allegedly brought in strikebreakers to do union jobs. And a new wave of leftist protesters have joined the picketing workers—bringing with them intense new techniques that the striking bakers weren’t expecting.
Here’s how the standoff outside Nabisco escalated.
How Mondelez Changed Its Tactics
Mondelez, based in Chicago, maintains that its Nabisco operations are running smoothly.
But since Portland bakers walked out Aug. 10, the company has been running buses and vans to and from hotels in North Portland. WW has seen these vans both in video and in person. On Monday evening, the vehicle models varied—from minivans to boxy white vans that resembled Amazon delivery trucks—but nearly all had tinted windows hiding who was inside.
Striking bakers assert the passengers are strikebreakers.
There’s some evidence for this: Mondelez appears to be using a strike staffing company called Huffmaster to employ contract workers. The following jobs are listed on Huffmaster’s website for work at facilities of a major food producer around the country: machinists, maintenance, engineer, forklift driver and quality control for food production and manufacturing.
Strikers say those listings and the descriptions mirror their jobs exactly—and many of them are listed as higher paid than union members.
Two women standing outside one of the hotels on Monday evening told WW they were going to Nabisco that evening to work.
Mondelez did not respond to WW’s requests for comment by press deadline.
How Strikers Changed Their Tactics
In recent weeks, the Nabisco bakers have been joined by Portland protesters—committed leftists who are veterans of standoffs against police during racial justice protests last year.
Two of those new allies spoke with WW under the condition of anonymity.
They describe three distinct actions by a small group of protesters over the past few weeks to disrupt Mondelez’s operations.
On Friday, Aug. 20, protesters blocked vans and personal vehicles from entering an external parking lot eight minutes away from a building on Northeast Killingsworth Street where protesters say strikebreakers park, then load onto buses and vans, and get taken to the bakery. Starting around 5 am, protesters blocked the driveway into the parking lot with their bodies for an hour. Eventually, cars and vans started turning around.
Once those vehicles left, protesters rushed to the Nabisco facility and started slowly walking across the main vehicle entrance on Columbia Boulevard to impede swift entry.
Then, on the following Tuesday evening before strikebreaking workers left the facility, protesters tell WW they staged “car troubles” at all seven of the egresses. Pictures shared with WW show two cars at one of the entrances, the driver of one swapping out a tire and moving painfully slowly, according to bakers—for over an hour. Eventually, videos show, the vans drove across the grass and between trees to enter the street and leave.
Later that same night around midnight, protesters tell WW, 10 of them drove their cars to the outside of two hotels near the airport where they suspected strikebreakers were being lodged and set off their car alarms and honked horns. The cacophony lasted about 10 minutes.
The union, too, has stepped up strike efforts.
Perhaps most notably, Nabisco bakers have halted rail delivery of ingredients to the Portland bakery. (Strikers say the supplies carried via rail include flour, sugar and oil. WW could not independently confirm that.)
On Aug. 23, baker Linda Lasher and a co-worker named Julie stood on the railroad tracks that run under the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard overpass to stop a Pacific Union supply train headed for the Nabisco facility. The train engineer—a union member—reversed course.
A Union Pacific spokesperson tells WW that it’s not currently serving the facility because of the strike.
Now, two workers with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 364 keep watch of the tracks at all times. They’ve set up a white tent beside the track in a small brown clearing beside the railroad. (Union Pacific told them they couldn’t stand on the tracks.) Five camp chairs have been set up, and a picnic table is stocked with powdered donuts, Hot Pockets from a nearby convenience store, and wasp repellent.
On a Saturday afternoon, the station is manned by Eddie Mayagoitia and another man. Mayagoitia’s shift is usually from 3 to 11 am. He met his wife while running the ovens that bake Oreos and Chicken in a Biskit. He and his wife trade strike shifts to take care of their baby.
He believes the blockade is affecting Nabisco’s production.
“I haven’t seen any trucks coming out with products,” Mayagoitia says. “If they were making stuff, we would smell the cookies.”