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Union Overwhelmingly Rejects Proposed Contract, Continues to Strike at Nabisco Bakery

A majority of baker’s union members across the country must vote affirmatively for the contract to approve it.

The local baker’s union that launched a strike at the Nabisco bakery that then went national at a handful of Nabisco facilities across the country likely struck down a proposed contract negotiation between union representatives and snack giant Mondelez International, Nabisco’s parent company.

Union leadership from the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 364 traveled to Washington D.C earlier this week to bargain with the company and returned to present it to local union members.

Cameron Taylor, the union’s business representative represented Local 364 in those talks.

“The tenor of the meeting was not contract positive,” Taylor says.

Local union members rejected the contract that resulted from the negotiations.

“This was a secret ballot vote, so it’s difficult to say that Portland unanimously struck it down,” says Local 364 vice president Mike Burlingham. “However, speaking with most of the members here, the general feel was an overwhelming no vote.”

In a video posted by the local union on Thursday morning, a dozen union members stood behind another member who said into a microphone, “We voted no. We support you, but we also need you to support us, and we’re the first ones to walk out, and we’re still going to fight this thing, and we need you to vote no. We got your back. Stay strong, we’re united.”

Taylor is on his way back to Washington D.C to count and present the Portland results to Mondelez and the other striking unions on that same contract at facilities in Richmond, Va., Aurora, Colo., Atlanta and Chicago. The Richmond and Chicago unions are voting on the contract on Friday.

A simple majority of union members—around 1,000 members nationally—must vote ‘yes’ on the proposed contract to grant approval.

Update, 8:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 19: Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union voted to approve the new contract and end the strike. (Look for a detailed story Monday.)

The tentative contract the union and Mondelez landed on contained one major sticking point for Portland union members.

The contract proposed shifting some regular shifts to the weekend. That would cut back on the amount that employees could work overtime on weekends. Union representatives say that both new employees and existing employees could bid for the weekend shifts, and those workers would have three 12-hour shifts but get paid for 40 hours.

Portland union members say that’s no better than Mondelez’s last offer, which would have shifted the schedule to an “alternative” work week that would reduced overtime.

“This is a way for the company to remove premium pay for weekend work as well. This new ‘bid’ will create a divide between lower and senior employees within the bakery as junior people will be forced into this bid should nobody volunteer,” Burlingham says. “It’s still the intentional divide the company is creating, just structured in a different way.”

The contract would maintain the health coverage in the union’s last contract, a provision union members support.

Many of the striking bakers have been without income for over a month, spending long hours on the picket line. Nearly 200 members of the local baker’s union—every baker’s union member in the building—went on strike. So did other unions at the bakery including teamsters, engineers and electricians.

The strike began Aug. 10, and started benignly with about two dozen baker’s union members holding signs along Northeast Columbia Blvd. It quickly escalated.

Two weeks into the strike, baker’s union members set up a station down by the railroad tracks nearby the facility to stop incoming supply trains operated by railroad union members from reaching the bakery. Eventually Portland police kicked strikers off of the land after the company determined it was, in fact, Mondelez land.

Outside supporters of the strike soon intensified strike tactics by blocking vans carrying strikebreaking workers from entering and leaving the facility. Protestors found out where Mondelez was loading strikebreakers onto buses and vans to transport them to the bakery. They routinely blocked vans from entering and leaving that parking lot, often clashing with security guards hired by the strike staffing company Huffmaster Crisis Response.

The strike has elevated to legal threats, too.

Mondelez’s attorneys sent a cease and desist letter to the union on Aug. 31, and the next day the union’s attorney Margaret Olney replied that most of the actions outlined in the cease and desist were not performed by union members themselves, but outside supporters. While Mondelez’s attorneys initially said the company would be pursuing a temporary restraining order against the union, they told Olney five days later they were no longer seeking one.

And on Tuesday, a teamster named Jesse Dreyer filed a federal lawsuit against Huffmaster, alleging one of its security guards assaulted him the day before.