NEW YORK — If there’s one thing the presidential candidates can agree on, it’s that “America’s favorite cookie” should be made in America.
Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have all spoken out against Mondelez International’s plan to cut 600 jobs at a Chicago Oreo cookie factory, and move many of those positions to Mexico.
Nabisco, a subsidiary of Mondelez, had received $90 million in tax benefits from Chicago and Illinois in 1993 to keep making Oreos in the company’s Southwest Side facility. Nabisco had used the money to upgrade its facility to churn out more Oreos, fat free Fig Newtons and Ritz crackers.
But Mondelez announced in July 2015 that those facilities have become too inefficient, and this time, the upgrades would be happening elsewhere. As part of a $130 million investment, Mondelez chose its facilities in Salinas, Mexico, for new state-of-the-art manufacturing “Lines of the Future.”
The four Lines of the Future in Mexico will replace nine of the manufacturing lines in Chicago. The Chicago layoffs are set to begin on March 21.
Presidential candidates are using the offshoring as fodder for their stump speeches.
“If a company like Nabisco outsources and ships jobs overseas, we’ll make you give back the tax breaks you receive here in America,” Clinton said during a speech at automotive supplier Detroit Manufacturing Systems last week.
Trump, during a speech in October, said that he’ll “never eat another Oreo again.”
“I don’t want their cookies made and sold there,” Trump. “I just don’t want it. It’s unfair to us. Chicago is losing this large plant. It’s going to another country.”
And Sanders’ labor chairman Larry Cohen has repeatedly spoken out about Mondelez’s plans.
Mondelez says Oreos will continue to be made in three U.S. facilities, including Fair Lawn, New Jersey; Naperville, Illinois; and Portland, Oregon. The company did not say what percentage of Oreo cookies will be made in Mexico following the layoffs.
Moving the facility to Mexico will save Mondelez $46 million, the company has stated. A spokeswoman also claimed that the company would have cut its Chicago headcount by 300 workers anyway, since the Lines of the Future require fewer people to operate.
About 600 people will keep their jobs at the Chicago facility. That’s half the current number employees and far fewer than the 2,400 people who worked there in 1993. Mondelez says despite the job cuts, the Chicago plant will remain one of its largest U.S. facilities in terms of headcount.
Nabisco changed Oreo’s slogan from “America’s favorite cookie” to “Milk’s favorite cookie” in 2004.
By David Goldman