TD members may act in solidarity for striking workers, but actions limited by RLA

Published: September 14, 2021

Local 313 (Grand Rapids, Mich.) member Chris Larson, a member of our union for seven years, wrote to the office of SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson asking the extent that members can go to support and show solidarity to an ongoing labor action by another labor union against an employer.

More than 1,000 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union have been striking for more than a month in locations in Portland, Ore.; Richmond, Va.; Norcross, Ga., and Chicago against Nabisco/Mondelez. Brother Larson suggested in a letter that unionized train operators stop deliveries to the company’s plants in a concerted effort in support of the strikes.

“Nabisco / Mondelz (sic) International will quickly notice when their raw inputs of flour, sugar, and other bulk commodities delivered by rail are no longer being delivered because SMART-TD is supporting the BCTGM strike,” Larson wrote. “I would like to encourage SMART-TD to quickly explore how our union can honor the BCTGM strike by not delivering raw inputs to Nabisco / Mondelz (sic) International by rail.”

While a strong and impactful suggestion by Larson, the federal Railway Labor Act limits when, where and why rail workers can engage in a work stoppage, as the union’s response noted.

“…it is important to note that the governing federal law (specifically the Railway Labor Act, as amended,) limits our ability to go on strike to very narrow and specific circumstances. Unfortunately, those circumstances do not include the secondary strike action you describe in your letter,” the TD office replied.

“We absolutely support the BCTGM workers in their fight for fairness and justice with Nabisco/Mondelez,” Ferguson said. “Our members and leadership will do what we can within the law through personal boycotts and outreach initiated by local members to show support from our union. We thank Brother Larson for speaking up and asking this question, and we appreciate his desire to act in solidarity with our fellow workers at BCTGM.”

Constitutionally, members can act in the interest of their personal safety in areas where a strike is taking place. According to Article 21B, Section 92 of the SMART Constitution:

When a strike of any other nationally recognized labor organization is in effect and danger to the safety of our members exists in or about the area affected by the strike, and/or if there exists any substantial present or potential threat of danger to the members enroute to or from their work, and/or to the members’ families, it is the policy of SMART to support its members in declining to enter the territory directly affected.

The strikes against Nabisco/Mondelez first began in August with BCTGM workers in Portland, then spread to the three additional locations during the month to protest the company’s outsourcing of U.S. jobs to plants in Mexico and the disproportionate hazard pay given to management when workers received only a $300 bonus.

As of this writing, the work stoppages are ongoing, and there are multiple ways TD members and their families can assist in the effort in the spirit of solidarity suggested at the BCTGM website.

  1. Check the label of Nabisco/Mondelez snacks and do not buy products made in Mexico by non-union labor.The UComm blog has an extensive list of the brands under the Nabisco/Mondelez umbrella, and the BCTGM has a PDF (image reproduced and linked here and below) showing where to check a Nabisco/Mondelez product’s place of manufacture. Some of the most-popular products sold by the company include Oreo, Chips Ahoy and Fig Newtons cookies as well as Ritz crackers.

  2. Join one of the picket lines to give supplies or offer support at the following sites:
    • Portland, Ore.: 100 N.E. Columbia Blvd.
    • Aurora, Colo.: 17775 E. 30th Ave.
    • Chicago, Ill.: 7300 Kedzie Ave.
    • Norcross, Ga.: 6300 Brook Hollow Pkwy.
    • Richmond, Va.: 6002 S. Laburnum Ave.
  3. Send a message of solidarity to the strike organizers.
  4. Donate to the BCTGM local strike funds:
    Local 1, Chicago Bakery Workers
    Local 42, Atlanta/Norcross Distribution Workers
    Local 358, Richmond Bakery Workers
    Local 364, Portland Bakery Workers
  5. Spread the word through your community by posting this flier or online through social media by following the BCTGM union’s accounts and using the #NabiscoStrike and #NoContractNoSnacks hashtags.

Together, we can assist the BCTGM workers to achieve a fair and favorable outcome to stop the corporate greed exhibited by Nabisco/Mondelez management.

Read Brother Chris Larson’s letter and the TD response. (PDF)