Boyle, DeLauro talk NAFTA renegotiation outside old Nabisco/Kraft plant

Boyle talks NAFTA outside former Nabisco plant

Boyle, standing at Roosevelt Boulevard and Nabisco Drive, said any new deal must be free, but fair and have protections for workers and the environment.

Money talks: U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle was joined by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, and former Nabisco employee Dan Melendez for a news conference last week. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle last week invited Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, for a news conference outside the former Nabisco/Kraft plant.

Boyle and DeLauro were joined by former Nabisco employee Dan Melendez, who worked there for 20 years before his job was transferred to a Mexico factory, where he said employees earn a little more than $1 an hour.

Melendez complained about payments made last year by Mondelez, which assumed management of the Far Northeast plant in 2011 after Kraft split into two companies, to its outgoing CEO ($17.3 million) and her successor ($42.4 million).

Also on hand were officials of SEIU 32BJ and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers, along with representatives of the carpenters and operating engineers unions.

Boyle explained why he thinks Mondelez closed the nine-story, 600,000-square-foot plant in 2015.

“NAFTA,” he said.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 after passing the U.S. Senate and House, with 166 Republicans and 129 Democrats voting in favor.

One of the 238 members of Congress who opposed the pact was DeLauro.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump negotiated a new deal with Mexico and Canada. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said a vote on the deal won’t come until 2019. The House will probably not address the deal until next year, when most observers believe Democrats will be in control.

Boyle, standing at Roosevelt Boulevard and Nabisco Drive, said any new deal must be free, but fair and have protections for workers and the environment.

The congressmen fondly recalls the Nabisco plant, which opened in the mid-1950s, for the smell of baking cookies and the family-sustaining jobs it offered. Among the products made there were Oreo and Lorna Doone cookies and Ritz and Teddy Graham crackers, and Boyle noted the plant was profitable.

Boyle described the closing of the business as “greed on steroids,” adding that bad trade deals harm workers and their families.

“It’s a crisis in America,” he said.

As he drove by and saw the tower coming down, he felt a “punch to the gut.”

Boyle, on his scorecard, also gives NAFTA a failing grade for leading to a decline in wages in Mexico.

DeLauro has been in contact with U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer. She will insist that NAFTA 2.0 include labor standards and enforcement measures, and no giveaway to “Big Pharma.” She blamed Republican tax cuts for incentivizing companies to relocate outside the U.S.

“Outsourcing is destroying livelihoods,” she said.

DeLauro believes NAFTA has cost 1 million good-paying manufacturing jobs, including more than 100,000 in Connecticut.

The congresswoman recalls Bic razors moving jobs from Milford, Connecticut to Mexico, and said Philips electronics will be sending some jobs from Wallingford, Connecticut to Costa Rica.

“Pro-corporate trade agreements fail the American people,” she said. ••