Letter to the Editor: Seeing the Nabisco plant gives me a sick feeling also, congressman

A former manufacturing manager at Nabisco responded to Brendan Boyle’s letter, calling for more action from lawmakers.

In response to Brendan Boyle’s Letter to the Editor, “Trade policies hurt us,” published on Sept. 6:

Congressman Boyle, I agree wholeheartedly it was excruciating for Nabisco to close and lose all those jobs in Philadelphia. I also find it disturbing that the landmark building on the Boulevard is being destroyed. I was one of the many affected employees. Nabisco was very good to me and many other families in the area, and I remain grateful. However, the comments in your op-ed (Trade policies hurt us) were not factual and I feel the need to present the facts. You claim all the work went to Mexico. Not true. Nabisco had four facilities on the East Coast, Atlanta, Richmond, Philadelphia and Fairlawn, New Jersey. All of those sites were under-utilized and running below capacity. A business decision was made to maximize capacity at each location. Unfortunately, Philadelphia drew the short straw in the assessment and hundreds of lives were impacted.

Philadelphia Bakery had five production lines in the last few years of its existence, Oreo, Lorna Doone, Teddy Graham, Snack Crackers and Ritz. The production from Oreo, Teddy Graham and Lorna Doone were transferred to Fairlawn, New Jersey; Ritz and Snack Crackers were moved to Richmond, Virginia. The company spent millions of dollars on new production lines and upgrades to existing lines at Fairlawn and Richmond to move those products. Included in the spending was an entirely new state-of-the-art Oreo production line from mixing to baking to packaging installed in New Jersey. Additionally, hundreds of new employees were hired at those sites, including a few from Philadelphia. While it may very well be true the new plant built in Salinas, Mexico benefited as well, the statement that Philadelphia was moved to Mexico is just not true.

The real issue in this discussion is what are our political leaders doing to prevent these issues from occurring? Other than, as you say, “[exposing] how the CEO of Mondelez was given $120 million for her ‘good work’ running the company … for closing our Nabisco plant and moving it to Mexico,” what did you personally do to save the bakery? I recall you stood outside the building one day with some other reps to present on TV you were against the company. And now you write an op-ed to claim trade policies hurt us. Was that the extent of your interaction?

You go on further to state, “This system is stacked against American working families. It’s killing us. We must change this system. If we don’t, the new face of America will look like the Nabisco plant does right now.” Who is “we?” You, sir, are in a position to affect this change. What are you doing? Waiting until a company announces a closure is too late. It is painless to put a chart up in Congress, do a sound bite on TV, or write an opinion in a newspaper. Creating legislation to limit CEO pay across the nation, or making relocation efforts difficult for a company, is complex. Yet, that is the work of Congress. Lawmakers need to stop making feeble excuses like the company went to Mexico, and take a proactive approach to ensure companies want to stay in Philadelphia. Amazon has 50,000 jobs to offer if they build in Philadelphia. Here is a chance to boost the economy in Philadelphia and provide jobs for the city. Can you and your colleagues make this happen?

John Bates

Former Manufacturing Manager, Nabisco