Each year, Americans eagerly purchase Girl Scout cookies — sumptuous little morsels sold by fundraising youngsters. These treats seem sweet and innocent, but there’s a dark side to the deliciousness, and you might be surprised to find out what it is.
USA Today reports that workers at a Girl Scout cookie factory are being forced to work six or seven days each week. The people who make those tasty Thin Mints, Trefoils, and Samoas say they face being fired if they refuse mandatory overtime and weekend shifts.
Things have changed since the popular treats were first sold. Girl Scout cookies weren’t always made in big bakeries by workers putting in long hours. According to the Girl Scouts website, the iconic cookies had their beginnings in home ovens, where the girls and their mothers started offering goodies for sale as early as 1917. Cookies for the annual sale were made by Girl Scout troops until 1935, when the group started selling commercial cookies. They began the process of licensing their own commercial baker in 1936.
By 1948, there were 29 bakeries making Girl Scout cookies. But in 1978, the number of bakeries authorized to make cookies for sale by Girl Scout troops was reduced to just four. The reduction was undertaken to keep prices low and ensure that the product was consistent.
Today, Girl Scout cookies are produced by two large commercial bakeries that operate under license from Girl Scouts of the USA. Little Brownie Bakers, owned by Kellogg’s, is a subsidiary of Keebler, and ABC Bakers, owned by George Weston Limited, is a subsidiary of Interbake Foods. ABC Bakers has carried a license to bake Girl Scout cookies since 1936.
The complaints reported by USA Today are coming from inside a Little Brownie Bakers facility in Louisville, Kentucky, where some workers have been baking and packaging treats for decades.
“It feels like we’re indentured servants,” one person told a reporter. “It’s really gotten worse in the last year. They (managers) keep saying it will get better, but it never does.”
Another worker described running a red light after working several long shifts.
A spokeswoman for Kellogg said that employees must work overtime in order to avoid a production shutdown.
Why are Girl Scout cookies bakers working so much overtime and spending holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving in the plant? There are a few reasons. First, demand for the cookies is sky-high. As the Inquisitr recently reported, fans of Thin Mints must wait for Girl Scout reps to deliver their treats as orders are backed up at the bakery.
The report in USA Today outlines another reason for the forced overtime. Little Brownie Bakers, which once had a staff of 700, cut its workforce by about half. There are 328 hourly workers at the bakery, plus a complementary staff of administrators and executives. The bakery used to produce Girl Scout cookies nine months per year, but today, they have three shifts that run 365 days a year.
Third, Kellogg shifted production of Girl Scout cookies from another bakery in Shively to the plant in Louisville.
In short, Teamsters Local 783 representative George Nelson told a reporter, “[T]hey took on more product than they had people.”
According to the Courier Journal, federal labor law allows managers to require overtime as long as they pay time and a half for the extra hours workers spend making Girl Scout cookies. The plant has hired temporary workers to clean equipment and fill some shifts.
[Girl Scout cookies image via Getty]