Until March 23, 2016, Michael Smith worked at the Mondelez-owned Nabisco Bakery on the southwest side of Chicago. Michael’s job and that of 599 other workers were offshored to Mexico. Michael is still laid off and looking for full-time work.
If ‘being outsourced’ sounds like a painful situation, trust me: it is very much so and from numerous vantage points. My life, the life of my entire family and the lives of about 599 other workers at this bakery that has made Nabisco products for over 60 years have changed dramatically since that day. We lost good-paying, family-sustaining jobs, our self-esteem, the future plans of our children and a future secure retirement all in one fell swoop. Those jobs we lost did not just vanish—they still exist to this day. But Mondelez, the parent of the Nabisco brands, moved those jobs to Mexico, where workers make pennies on the dollar compared to what we made making these products. Not because we were not already making great profits for the company, but because the company just wanted more profit.
Now displaced American workers see the same products made 1800 miles away, just far enough across the border in Mexico to escape U.S. employment laws and pay standards, on store shelves in our community here in Chicago. There is not a dime’s worth of difference in what the company now charges for these products even though they pay Mexican workers pennies on the dollar with respect to what I was paid. The only thing workers like me get is $450 per week in unemployment for 26 weeks, training for jobs that, for the most part, do not exist and a future looking at a CEO that makes over $20 million per year, has a personal corporate retirement plan worth $35 million, a corporate severance package worth over $50 million and additional stock options worth tens of millions of dollars.
Bad trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement deplete U.S. economic resources, kill our communities and have dire, devastating consequences for working families. If these corporations want to move to Mexico and pay people poverty wages, they should sell their products in the economy where they are produced. Using American workers, who are also consumers, just as a means to purchase products made elsewhere, while at the same time depriving us of the opportunity to make what we consume, benefits only one group in this corporate business plan: the large investors and the corporate CEOs.
For more information on the Nabisco 600’s “Check the Label” campaign, click here.