As the month-old bakers’ strike at the Portland Nabisco factory continues to escalate, so do the techniques used by company security guards hired through an out-of-state strike staffing company called Huffmaster.
During the early days of the strike, which first began on Aug. 10 when 200 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 364 walked out of their bakery jobs, the contracted security guards would mostly huddle in small groups on the company’s grounds or meander around the plant property, staying far away from strikers along Northeast Columbia Boulevard.
But the security guards have come increasingly more involved with the protesters—both by using intimidation techniques and getting increasingly physical with union members, as well as with outside protesters.
The standoff between the baker’s union and Mondelez International, the plant’s owner, escalated 10 days ago when the company sent a cease-and-desist letter to local union leadership on Sept. 2, threatening legal action. The union’s attorney disagreed. Mondelez’s attorneys also called the union’s business agent Cameron Taylor to signal they would be seeking a temporary restraining order against the union. (Four days later, Mondelez told the union’s attorney, Margaret Olney, it would not be pursuing the order—for now.)
The security guards wear blue uniforms, Huffmaster baseball caps, and black boots. A little patch on the side of each of their shirts reads “Huffmaster Crisis Response” and patches on the front of the shirt read either “Security Guard” or “Security Officer.”
Sources have shared a dozen videos and images that demonstrate a shift in how Mondelez’s contracted security guards are acting toward strikers and supporters of the strike.
One picture shows two male security guards on Sept. 2 standing within inches on either side of a female striker, Regina Klavano, who’s holding a picket sign by the railroad tracks—where, until last week when police ordered them to move, strikers were camped to stop supply trains containing flour, sugar and oil from entering the bakery.
A video from that day shows a line of seven strikers standing beside the railroad holding signs. A line of six Huffmaster guards stand closely behind them, hands on their belt loops or laced behind their backs. Another guard about 10 feet away from the line of guards holds a camcorder and records the scene.
Huffmaster’s website says that it trains security guards to document strike behavior, including potentially illegal activities.
Another video shows two security guards pushing strikers away from a van entering the facility carrying strikebreakers.
Huffmaster and Mondelez did not respond to WW’s requests for comment.
Nonunion protesters sympathetic to the strikers have been taking more aggressive actions recently by impeding strikebreaking vans and buses from exiting and entering an external parking lot that Mondelez leased several miles from the facility.
Last Wednesday morning at 5:30, a group of eight strike supporters parked cars at the two entrances of the remote parking lot where strikebreakers gathered to catch a bus to the Nabisco plant. The idea was to block the strikebreakers in the lot so they couldn’t get to work.
The protesters say that the bus driver kept driving forward slowly to break through the blockade. Protesters say a group of six Huffmaster security guards pushed, elbowed and shoved the protesters away and tried to wrest picket signs out of their hands as they blocked the bus. When the bus reached the cars, the strikebreakers inside the bus got off and walked past the cars to smaller vans that then took them to the bakery.
Police eventually showed up and told the protesters they could not block the parking lot exits with cars.
Union representatives are meeting with the company in Baltimore this week to bargain.
Meanwhile, Huffmaster has posted jobs for food production facilities in multiple cities across the country, which Local 364 members say match their job descriptions exactly.