After threats to permanently replace striking workers, Kellogg’s negotiations resume

1,400 workers have been on strike since October 5 across four plants of the cereal manufacturer in the United States

December 01, 2021 by Monica Cruz

Workers at the multinational breakfast cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s just hit two months on strike as the company ups the ante to force them off the picket lines and the union returns to the bargaining table with the company. The striking workers work at the manufacturer’s plants located in Battle Creek, Michigan (the company’s central headquarters), Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Memphis, Tennessee, and Omaha, Nebraska.

The workers, represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union, report working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week to produce the company’s iconic cereal brands. They voted to strike after Kellogg’s proposed a contract which would expand a two-tier system, eliminating pensions for new employees and axing cost of living provisions. The contract would also put forward changes for holiday pay and allowances.

In their last contract in 2015, workers agreed to the formation of a “transitional” category of employees who receive significantly lower pay than more senior workers and less benefits. In a measure to stop Kellogg’s from hiring more low pay workers, this number of “transitionary” workers was capped at 30%. Now, the company is pushing to get rid of this cap.

In a press release, the union stated, “Kellogg is making these demands as they rake in record profits, without regard for the well-being of the hardworking men and women who make the products that have created the company’s massive profits.”

Kellogg’s made $1.25 billion in profits last year as its sales grew by over 8%. CEO Steve Cahillane makes $12 million a year, almost 280 times the company’s average salaried pay. Nonetheless, the company continues to claim that it does not have the resources to pay workers their fair share.

“Kellogg’s is playing really dirty!”

Soon after the strike began back on October 5, the company cut healthcare insurance for all striking workers, forcing some to pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.

Kevin Bradshaw, vice president of Local 252G and a 20-year worker at the Memphis, Tennessee plant, told Jacobin, “We have people with scheduled surgeries, and some who, just as we speak, have been diagnosed with cancer — who have worked more than twenty years, who today can’t even get chemo and other treatments they need. Kellogg’s is playing really dirty!”

Then last week, the company announced that it plans to hire permanent replacements for the striking workers, saying they have been “left with no choice.” In response, calls for a boycott of all Kellogg’s products are growing.

Negotiations resumed this week, ahead of the planned December 6 meeting.

Monica Cruz is a reporter with US-based media outlet Breakthrough News.