Mondelēz union workers’ leader welcomes demise of TPP decision, remains silent on job loss by automation

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

US President Donald Trump vowed to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US during his campaign.  Photo: EddieHernandezPhotography
US President Donald Trump vowed to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US during his campaign. Photo: EddieHernandezPhotography

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The president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Miller’s International Union (BCTGM), David Durkee, has welcomed the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a "significant victory for the American middle-class."

The TPP was signed by 12 countries that border the Pacific Ocean in February, 2016 with an aim to create a single market. These 12 countries, including Australia and Mexico, represent roughly 40% of the world’s economic output.

Durkee’s statement came nearly a year after the BCTGM filed legal action against Mondelēz, accusing the Oreo maker of moving some of its manufacturing lines at the Nabisco plant​ from the south side of Chicago to Mexico, ConfectioneryNews previously reported.

The BCTGM represents 1,000 members at the Nabisco bakery in Chicago. Mondelēz reportedly said the cost-cutting move would save the company around $46m a year.

In December 2016, Mondelēz announced plans to close its factory in Montreal, Canada, by the end of 2017. The company has constructed the world’s largest cookie plant​ in Monterrey, Mexico, with the help of a $350m investment.

Trump has publicly lambasted Mondelēz for its manufacturing jobs move, even though he made around $5,001 to $15,000 from his investment in the company, according to Trump’s 2016 financial disclosure​.

A victory for American middle class

“For nearly 30 years, American workers and their families have been victimized by deplorable trade deals, such as NAFTA,”​ Durkee said. “Many thousands of BCTGM members across the industries in which we represent workers have seen their jobs shipped to Mexico by employers, most notably Nabisco/ Mondelēz, seeking the lowest-wage labor possible.”

“The demise of the TPP is a significant victory for the American middle class and is the result, in large measure, of the enormous effort of the labor movement for the past several years to mobilize working men and women across the country against this severely-flawed trade deal.”

“The BCTGM is proud to have been an active participant in this highly effective effort. Good riddance to the TPP,”​ he added.

What about jobs taken by automation?

According to the previous Pack Expo in Chicago, food packaging and processing industry leaders have warned that Trump’s promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US is “empty”.

One of the top executives from Wexxar, a Vancouver-based company that has been manufacturing case sealing and tray forming machinery, told ConfectioneryNews: “The number of manufacturing jobs has decreased mainly because of automation.”

He added: “I don’t think the US wants to use low-cost labors to compete with automation, because it’s actually more expensive compared to automation machinery.”

The BCTGM refused tocomment on what it thinks about automation being the main factor contributing to the job loss.

In the future, the BCTGM said it will “stand vigilant and vocal in the fight against similarly exploitative and destructive trade deals”.

“The BCTGM remains committed to economic and trade policies which revitalize and expand the American manufacturing sector and create millions of good, middle-class jobs for American workers,”​ Durkee said.

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