MARQUETTE PARK — The U.S. presidential campaign shined a spotlight on the loss of jobs at a Southwest Side Nabisco plant Wednesday as backers of U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke out against the transfer of jobs to Mexico.
"Wherever the wages are cheaper, that's where they go," said Larry Cohen, chairman of Labor for Sanders. "When does it stop? And the real question is, when do we stop it?"
Calling it an "all-too-typical story about greed," Cohen said the jobs were being lost "for no reason except higher profits. This is a productive, profitable plant that's been here for generations."
Cohen led a news conference at the Nabisco plant, 7300 S. Kedzie Ave., now owned by the Kraft Foods subsidiary Mondelez International.
According to Ed Burpo, president of the local bakers' union at the plant, which manufactures Oreos, Ritz crackers, Chips Ahoy, Velveeta and other products, a "first wave" of 277 workers received layoff notices for later this month. "Their goal is to get to 600," he added, or about three-quarters of the manufacturing staff at the plant.
"This is a human story," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd). "How do you want Little Village, Austin, the South Side and the West Side to have jobs that pay mortgages?
"That's why there needs to be a political revolution," he added. "This product has been produced here for over 90 years. It should continue to be produced by Chicagoans."
"As a community, we have to unite to back Nabisco workers," Cohen said. "We have to have a political movement. Otherwise it's just another fight like this one after another."
At the other end of the political spectrum, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has also drawn attention to the loss of jobs to Mexico at the plant, saying, "I'm never eating Oreos again."
"Donald Trump pits us against each other," Cohen said. "The only way we're gonna stop this is we unite."
Sanders faces off against Hillary Clinton in the Illinois Democratic Primary March 15, while on the Republican side Trump tries to hold off U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson.
The news conference was briefly disrupted when one person leaving the Nabisco parking lot across the street leaned out the driver's side window of his car and shouted, "Donald Trump!"
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