Around 1,400 Kellogg workers went on strike at the company’s U.S. cereal plants on Tuesday, bringing work to a halt.
The strike includes plants in Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee, reported AP News (Oct. 5). The union and Kellogg have been at odds for over a year over an assortment of pay and benefit issues such as loss of premium health care, holiday and vacation pay, as well as reduced retirement benefits.
Daniel Osborn, president of the local union in Omaha, expects the company to bring non-union workers into the plants at some point this week to try to resume operations and maintain the supply of its products.
The company has acknowledged it is “implementing contingency plans” to limit supply disruptions for consumers.”
THREAT TO MOVE WORK TO MEXICO
The company has threatened to send additional jobs to Mexico if workers don’t accept proposals that “take away protections workers have had for decades,” according to Anthony Shelton, president of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.
Kellogg insists that its offer is fair and would increase wages and benefits for its employees that it said made an average of $120,000 last year. “We are disappointed by the union’s decision to strike. Kellogg provides compensation and benefits for our U.S. ready to eat cereal employees that are among the industry’s best,” Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner said in a statement.
GRUELING PANDEMIC SHIFTS
Osborn told AP that the plants have all continued to operate throughout the pandemic, but for much of that time workers were putting in 12-hour shifts, seven days a week to keep up production while many people were out due to the virus.
“The level we were working at is unsustainable,” Osborn said.
HOW OTHER FOOD COMPANIES HAVE HANDLED RECENT STRIKES
Workers at several other food manufacturers have also gone on strike this year.
In July, hundreds of striking Frito-Lay workers in Kansas called on the snack maker to put an end to forced overtime and 84-hour workweeks brought on by a pandemic-era surge in demand. After nearly three weeks, the strike ended with employees in Topeka, Kansas, receiving a revised contract addressing what union leaders previously described as a diminished quality of life due to working conditions, reported CNN (July 24).
Additionally, workers at Mondelez International Inc. finalized a strike in September after union members accepted a new four-year contract, which included ratification bonuses, hourly wage increases and a higher company match for 401(k) contributions, reported The Wall Street Journal (Sept 20).