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A Not-So-Sweet Cookie Story

In my childhood, Shabbat never felt complete without Stella D’Oro cookies. For the uninitiated, these are dry cookies whose chief (or only) advantage is that they are parve (dairy free) and therefore can be eaten for dessert after a meat meal. I was especially partial to the Swiss Fudge flavor, which featured a dollop of chewy fudge in the middle of an otherwise-bland cookie-if you nibbled away the outside first, you could enjoy a few bites of pure fudge at the end.

I have since stopped eating meat and have learned to bake, thereby eliminating the need for parve supermarket cookies, but still have a soft place in my heart for Stella D’Oro. I was therefore upset to hear recently that workers at the cookie-maker’s Bronx factory went on strike this past summer, and even more upset that this strike has attracted (as far as I can tell) virtually no notice in the Jewish community.

In 2006, Brynwood Partners bought Stella D’Oro from Kraft Foods. As soon as the contract of the existing 136 workers ran out in the summer of 2008, the new management demanded that the workers accept pay cuts of up to 26% and begin contributing to their health insurance plan. The workers scheduled to bear the brunt of this pay cut would be the women who package the cookies. (Brynwood has classified certain jobs-mostly those held by men-as "skilled" and thus subject to smaller paycuts.) The workers walked out in August.

The Jewish community has already demonstrated an ability to change Stella D’Oro policy. A few years ago, the company decided, for financial reasons, to start using dairy ingredients in the aforementioned Swiss Fudge cookies. Jews around the country rose up as one and demanded justice. Faced with the possibility of losing its primary (or only) customer base, Stella D’Oro quickly reversed the decision to dairy-fy the cookies, and returned to purchasing parve fudge filling.

Will we harness this same economic power to save the livelihoods of 136 Bronx families?

How you can help:

1. Support the families of striking workers by making a contribution to the strike fund. Send donations to:

BCTGM Local 50 Attn: Joyce Alston, President 145 Talmadge Road, Suite 17 Edison, NJ 08817

2. E-mail Henrik Hartong, Jr., the senior partner of Brynwood, to ask him to maintain workers’ wages and health benefits. Let him know that you won’t be purchasing Stella D’Oro cookies in the meantime.

This post originally appeared on The Jew & The Carrot and was reprinted with permission. They are also holding a contest to win a copy of Rabbi Jacobs’ book. Click here to learn how to win her new book There Shall Be No Needy.

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