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Who Loses in Globalization?

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Above: More beneficiaries of free trade

There are some winners in globalization and a lot of losers. Among the winners are capitalist elites in nearly all nations. Among the losers are the working and middle classes in globally wealthy companies seeing their tenuous hold on a dignified life with hope for the future crushed under an onslaught of capital mobility. Take Mondelez, which makes Oreos and is closing a Chicago factory to move it to Mexico.

Wearing a blue Oreo cookie shirt, Michael Smith stepped to the microphone and addressed the person responsible for cutting his job. Smith, 59, worked at the longtime bakery for about 4-1/2 years before being laid off in March.

“We implore you to please reverse course on the Mexico decision that disenfranchises so many of us here in Chicago,” Smith said to Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld responded: “We take these decisions very seriously. We fully understand the impact it has on the individual and their families. We made this decision over a year ago. We did move approximately 600 jobs to Mexico to run upgraded equipment that runs much faster than the lines we have here. … Chicago will continue to be a cornerstone of our manufacturing assets in this country. … But we did make a decision that was predicated on our ability to make quality products at an affordable price for our consumers.”

Several of the comments and questions aimed at Rosenfeld highlighted her compensation, which she defended as being largely performance based, juxtaposed against a decision to not make the $130 million investment necessary to upgrade the Chicago plant and keep jobs there. Mondelez executives also have said moving the lines to Mexico — instead of upgrading the Chicago plant — saves the company about $46 million a year.

Rosenfeld received a total compensation of $19.7 million in 2015, a decrease of 6.5 percent from $21 million in 2014, according to recent proxy filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Brandon Rees, deputy director for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, was at the meeting to support a shareholder proposal for recyclable packaging, which failed. In his remarks, Rees also lumped in Mondelez’s decision to “offshore jobs to Mexico” as an example of the company being “penny wise and pound foolish.”

The AFL-CIO has joined the baker’s union in a boycott of Mexico-made Mondelez products.

Rees held up pictures of his daughters and asked Rosenfeld what he should tell them to explain why Mondelez would willingly cut much-needed jobs from Chicago.

“My suggestion to you is to explain to them that business decisions are often difficult and good companies take into account a variety of factors to make those decisions. And when they make difficult decisions, if they treat those who are affected with dignity, respect and fairness, then that’s what you can hope for from a quality company,” Rosenfeld said.

I’m sure those workers’ daughters will totally think of Mondelez as a quality company treating their parents with dignity, respect, and fairness. After all, the company’s CEO only makes $19 million a year. How much can you ask her to sacrifice?

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