‘Death of 1,000 cuts’ – BCTGM workers launch nationwide strike against Kellogg’s

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Union calls for boycott of cereal giant

SNAP-CRACKLE-STRIKE: First shift worker Travis Huffman joins other BCTGM Local 3G union members in a strike against Kellogg Co. on Oct. 5, 2021 outside the Kellogg plant in Battle Creek, Mich. Workers in Battle Creek, Lancaster, Memphis and Omaha are on strike, demanding livable wages and better benefits. – Alyssa Keown/Battle Creek Enquirer photo

Fourteen hundred members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco, and Grain Milling (BCTGM) union have gone on strike against Kellogg’s cereals, marking the third time this year the BCTGM union has gone on strike at a major food producer.

The strike began Oct. 5 and includes workers in Battle Creek, Mich. (Local 3G), Omaha, Neb. (Local 50G), Lancaster, Pa. (Local 374G), and Memphis, Tenn. (Local 252G), where Kellogg’s plants make some of the biggest staples of morning breakfasts including Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Froot Loops, Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.

The Battle Creek location is also where the company is headquartered and was the former site of Kellogg’s Cereal City USA.

The company and employees are gridlocked over pay and benefits, including health care and retirement, NBC News reports. Union leaders say the company is also threatening to offshore jobs to Mexico.

According to the union, Kellogg’s wants to discontinue workers’ pensions to new employees, remove cost-of-living provisions, and make changes in holiday pay and vacations.

“The company continues to threaten to send additional jobs to Mexico if workers do not accept outrageous proposals that take away protections that workers have had for decades,” BCTGM President Anthony Shelton told Labor 411.

“A lot of Americans probably don’t have too much issue with the Nike or Under Armor hats being made elsewhere or even our vehicles, but when they start manufacturing our food down where they are out of the FDA control and OSHA control, I have a huge problem with that,” Shelton said.”

DEATH OF 1,000 CUTS
Daniel Osborn, president of BCTGM Local 50G in Omaha, says one of the issues concerning pay is the proposed two-tier wage system at Kellogg’s, he told NBC.

Lower-tier employees make $11 or $12 less than a regular tier, Osborn said. They also have higher insurance premiums and less vacations, he said.

Kerry Williams, a Lancaster, Pa. processing maintenance worker, told Vice News some workers are being overworked – 12 or 16 hours a day.

Williams also told The Guardian that the workplace conditions at Kellogg’s feel “like a death of 1,000 cuts. They’re slowly eliminating jobs out of the Lancaster plant.

“We had to work through this Covid for the last two years and they’ve just shown disrespect for the union name. They even want to remove our union logo from the cardboard cereal box,” Williams added.

Todd Minusos, a second-generation Kellogg worker in Battle Creek, says for the last 18 months, the company treated them like essential workers as they worked throughout the pandemic to ensure supermarket shelves were stocked. Now he feels like he was slapped in the face by management with their demands for cuts and regressive givebacks.

Minusos says he still has the letter the company gave them deeming them essential workers, but the company seems to have forgotten how essential they really are. Making it through the pandemic brought the workers closer together, and they succeeded through it in spite of management. That solidarity has only bolstered their willingness to go out on strike until they get a fair contract, he said.

$1.761 BILLION IN PROFITS
According to financial documents from Kellogg, the company made $1.761 billion in profits in 2020, up from $1.4 billion in 2019. This was the company’s largest profit since 2013, yet they are still demanding cuts.

Some of the other main sticking points in negotiations include the company’s attempt to create a two-tier wage system. This would allow new workers to be brought in at lower wages, putting high paid older workers’ jobs on the chopping block and setting up these workers to either be fired and replaced with lower-paid workers or for the company to negotiate down raises and wages for these workers in the next contract. To prove just how petty the company is getting, they are also insisting on removing the union bug that is printed on every box of Kellogg cereal. This bug has been on the cereal box for decades and has never been a problem for the company until now.

“We’re fighting for our future,” Trevor Bidelman, president of BCTGM Local3G in Battle Creek, told The Guardian of Kellogg’s  proposed pension cuts, elimination of cost-of-living provisions and changes in holiday pay and vacations. “We made it very clear from the onset of negotiations that this was not something we’ll be able to accept,” he said.

In Memphis, the company has been trying to rewrite the definition of “casual” workers in order to reduce wages and benefits, the National Labor Relations Board claims, as Kellogg’s locked out about 220 workers from October 2013 to August 2014.

The NLRB determined the lockout was illegal and demanded that employees be reinstated plus compensation for wages and benefits they lost, but in 2016 a federal appeals court overturned that ruling.

(Information for this report from Labor 411, UCOMM Blog, NBC News, The Guardian, The Hill and Vice News.)

BOYCOTT KELLOG’S

With 1,400 Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco, and Grain Milling (BCTGM) workers on strike against Kellogg’s cereals, the union has asked everyone to refrain from buying Kellogg’s products until the strike is over. Kellogg’s cereal products include:

  • Rice Krispies
  • Raisin Bran
  • Froot Loops
  • Corn Flakes
  • Frosted Flakes
  • Frosted Mini-Wheats
  • Shredded Wheat

BCTGRM currently has no boycott on snacks made by Kellogg as those workers are under a different contract.

 


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