Monday, June 01, 2009

Boycotting Stella D'Oro

This isn't a boycott about the taste, or some new ingredient that's going into the products at Stella D'Oro. No, the reason why I, and many activists in the New York (and possibly further out) area are not buying from them anymore is because of how the workers are being treated. A long time ago it was a great family-owned company to work for, but now that corporate America has gotten its tentacles into the Bronx bakery something has got to give before I pick up another one of their packages.

From The Huffington Post:

Stella D'oro, which was once an iconic, national, premium Italian-style biscuit brand, was also once a successful family-owned firm acquired by RJR Nabisco, then taken over by Kraft when RJR Nabisco broke up (in the wake of the disastrous KKR LBO). Stella was run into the ground by its corporate overseers, then dumped to private equity earlier this decade when Kraft began to dispose of "non-core" assets under pressure from Wall Street. Workers there have been represented by the Bakers' union since 1964.

Apparently the PE guys see the modest union contract of the older, experienced work force as a good target for their next round of pillaging. In the first round, the company disposed of its unionized route sales drivers by outsourcing distribution to a non-union company.

This time, Stella's new owners have gone directly at the workforce, ignoring the National Labor Relations Act and demanding steep wage and benefit cuts with no opportunity for the workers and their union to bargain. The National Labor Relations Board, after the usual delay and indecision issued a "refusal to bargain" complaint charging the company with violating the law. The case only went before a federal judge last week; American labor law is so broken that it may take years for justice to prevail.

Corporate mismanagement, predatory private equity, the destruction of an iconic brand and now an attempt to destroy the livelihoods of modest working families, the story at Stella D'oro pretty well sums up all that's been happening over the past two decades with the financialization of the food and manufacturing sectors generally. The workers and their union, an affiliate of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, AFL-CIO have decided they have had enough.

Reducing the wages of these workers for the next five years is nothing short of corporate greed at its worst. Thankfully, the long-time employees aren't taking this lying down and neither is the area where the factory operates. Just this weekend another huge outpouring of community support was shown for the workers' plight. For far too long corporate America has taken advantage of workers across the country and it is time to stand up against them, whether it be at a bakery or not.