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Nabisco Worker Michael Smith Shares His Story: 'I Am Not a Number, a Statistic, I'm a Man'

My name is Michael J. Smith. I am an American worker and, up until March 23, I worked at the Nabisco bakery located on the South Side of Chicago. I worked there nearly five years, and I am unemployed today because Mondelēz International/Nabisco sent my job and 600 others to Mexico where workers earn in one week what I made in several hours.

My wife and I live in Tinley Park, and we have four children and five grandchildren. We attend the apostolic church where I teach Sunday school. I believe in America and am proud to live in America.

But the America that has given corporations the right to produce products overseas and return those products that were once produced by American workers to the communities suffering from these corporate decisions is failing me, my family, my co-workers, our communities and America’s future.

American workers lose their jobs, workers across borders and oceans are exploited for their low wages, products are made in these low-wage economies, shipped back to the states at the same price and the increased profits end up in the pockets of a CEO who already makes nearly $20 million per year. Everyone in this business model loses except for the CEO: workers in the United States and Mexico (and everywhere) lose. American consumers, communities and the entire economy also lose.

Behind each worker, and each statistic, is a family. And these families are broken financially, emotionally injured and tossed into a state of hopelessness as we try to pick up the pieces. As we seek to find new work, we encounter tens of thousands of others who are similarly situated, vying for an ever-shrinking job base that increasingly provides lower and lower wages and few if any benefits.

Corporations that send jobs elsewhere and return those products here to the very communities they have devastated, want just one thing: America's consumer dollars. Nabisco makes a net profit of more than $2 billion. But workers were asked to take a wage and benefit reduction of 60% in order to be even considered for any investment into our plant in Chicago. We were asked to give the company $46 million per year in order to raise a $130 million investment. But even with this sacrifice, our employer said we would have 225 less jobs. Now, there are 600 less of us working in Chicago, as our jobs were moved to Mexico; a workforce they hired at a factory they built with the profits we and our families for generations made for them.

Hillary Clinton came to the Chicago bakery to visit the workers instead of the corporate bigwigs. She recognizes that we are not just a number. She tried to intervene personally with Irene Rosenfeld, the CEO of Mondelēz, which is the parent company of Nabisco, but this CEO believes she answers to no one. Clinton promised us that she would work to change this corporate business dynamic in the United States because, left unchanged, corporate greed will result in the collapse of the American economy, and soon after the collapse of the global economy.

The Democratic Party also recently adopted a pro-working people trade platform, but there is more work to do.

I am not a number! I am not a statistic! I am not a casualty! I am a man! I demand dignity and respect, and I intend to fight to achieve it.

Editor's Note: Smith, a Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) member, will be in Philadelphia, at the Democratic National Convention, sharing his story how outsourcing affects working people.

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