Oreo Bakers Union’s Motion Denied by Federal Judge

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

The union fighting the layoff of about 600 workers at a Chicago Oreo bakery suffered a setback late last week when a Chicago federal judge denied its request for assistance from the court.

Meanwhile, Mondelez International and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union remain deadlocked on contract negotiations. The union has until Sunday to ratify the “last, best and final” contract offer from Oreo maker Mondelez or the company can withdraw it. Mondelez spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati said Wednesday there are no contract talks scheduled for the rest of the month, but the company remains open to bargaining in good faith.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall denied the union’s motion, which sought binding arbitration on grievances related to the pending layoffs at the Nabisco plant. In her ruling, Kendall said the two sides were still working through the grievance process outlined in the collective bargaining agreement and that “Mondelez has done nothing to obstruct this procedure.”

Neither union spokesman Ron Baker nor Ed Burpo, president of Local 300 of the bakers union, could be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

In a grievance filed with the company Dec. 11, the bakers union alleged that moving production to Mexico — and the loss of the majority of the union’s members at the plant — violates a nondiscrimination clause in the collective bargaining agreement because the vast majority of members at the plant are minorities and over 40 years old. The grievance also claims the move violates other clauses in the agreement.

On Dec. 21, the union filed another grievance requesting immediate arbitration on previous grievances that alleged Mondelez was filling jobs within the bargaining unit at the bakery with contracted nonunion workers.

The union also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in late January, claiming Mondelez’s plan for job cuts at the Chicago bakery was “driven by the desire to eliminate its largest workforce population made up of people of color and those over age 40.”

“The company does not discriminate and we believe the complaints have no merit,” Guzzinati said Wednesday.

The local contract covering the bakers union employees at the Oreo plant has expired, along with six other local contracts at other facilities. The latest round of negotiations wrapped up last week in Baltimore, Guzzinati said.

The union said it would be available for talks the week of April 4, she said.

“Employees continue to show up for work and we continue to operate our business,” Guzzinati said.