More than a month into the multistate walkout at Nabisco and its parent company, Mondelez International, the picket line on NE Columbia Boulevard had some new faces joining with the striking workers from Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union: the Portland Thorns.
In what BCTGM Local 364 president Jesus Martinez called “a big morale boost,” players mingled with workers and union reps at the edge of the Nabisco property. Union members walked out of the facility, which straddles the line between North and Northeast Portland, on August 10 after contract negotiations broke down with Chicago-based Mondelez, with issues including a schedule of longer shifts with no overtime pay. The action has since spread to other Nabisco facilities across the country, and drawn support from local and national politicians. And, now, the sporting world.
Emily Menges addressed the crowd with a megaphone, flanked by teammates Bella Bixby, Marissa Everett, Morgan Weaver, Abby Smith, Yazmeen Ryan, Taylor Porter, Christen Westphal, and Madison Pogarch—several of whom are (do not make a stupid striker pun, do not make a stupid striker pun) experienced strikers of another kind (sorry!).
“Their hope was to stand in solidarity with the workers here as they fight for a fair contract," said Jess Giannettino, political director at Oregon AFL-CIO, which helped organize the Thorns’ visit. Giannettino also pointed out that the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association was going through its first contract negotiation.
“I’m not going to talk about our CBA,” said goalkeeper Bixby of the players' in-progress collective bargaining agreement, when asked about the players’ own labor goals. “That’s not why we’re here today.”
Menges, a Thorn since 2014 and treasurer of the NWSL Players Association, said the same thing in her remarks to the crowd. Like Bixby, Menges has been active in the #NoMoreSideHustles campaign, raising awareness of the many professional athletes, particularly women, who work multiple jobs to get by.
While she noted the “struggle” of the league’s negotiations, Menges made clear it “is not why we’re out here today. We’re out here because you guys are fighting a lot of the same battles we are. We know right from wrong, and this is wrong, what’s happening here. And we can support and show up for our fellow Portland community when something’s not right.”
"When professional athletes and factory workers at a bakery in North Portland can find common cause, I gotta tell you, we’re gonna win this thing,” Graham Trainor, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, told the crowd, many of whom were wearing stickers with the Thorns crest and the word "solidarity." Trainor noted that the Thorns and the city's embrace of the women's game were among his favorite things about Portland, right up there with “the rich spirit of pickets and protests that our city has."