This morning, Oreo announced a new variation of its popular sandwich cookies decorated with Pokémon characters. But while I love me some cross-brand synergy, I’m also a little wary of scarfing down on a crunchy, chocolate recreation of Pikachu’s face when striking Nabisco workers have asked the public to refrain from buying the company’s various snack products.
Oreo’s Pokémon cookies were revealed with an impressive trailer for a collection of 16 unique designs featuring pocket monsters like Pikachu, Squirtle, Jigglypuff, and more. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pokémon product without some sort of obsessive hunt to go along with it, which means a handful of patterns (I’m looking at you, Mew) will apparently be harder to “discover” than others.
You can even pre-order packages of these Pokémon treats now ahead of their September 13 launch, a mystifying sentence to write about baked goods.
Before today, however, Oreo manufacturer Nabisco and parent company Mondelez International were in the news for less whimsical reasons.
Nabisco employees belonging to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM) have been on strike since August 10 over disagreements with the company while negotiating a new labor contract. The main points of contention include Nabisco’s pushing for mandatory weekend work, longer shifts with no overtime pay, and a new health insurance plan that increases costs for workers.
“Basically, the main thing we’re trying to get is a fair contract,” Nathan Williams, a Nabisco oiler from Virginia, told Motherboard last month. “During the pandemic, we came in seven days a week. Some people worked every day—16 hours a day—for three months. For [Nabisco leadership], it’s all about finding the cheapest way to make cookies.”
The walkouts began in Portland, but quickly spread to Nabisco factories in Addison, Aurora, Chicago, Norcross, and Richmond. Since then, workers have called upon consumers to avoid Nabisco products like Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and Ritz.
“It was just constant. Never had time to spend with the kids. Never had time to spend with the family,” machine operator Steven James said during a recent interview with Yahoo! Finance. “We had some management working from home. So, of course they were good, they were safe. We risk our lives coming out every day working all those hours. We try to tell everyone, do not buy any Nabisco products at this time, because we are on strike.”
It’s a sad fact that, on some level, there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism. But that doesn’t mean we should just ignore these problems, especially when the workers themselves are begging us to make the small sacrifice of going without our favorite snacks for a bit. Pokémon or no, I can do without Oreos until the countless people who make them are finally treated with a modicum of respect for their labor.