Kellogg’s union rejects deal with 3% hike to prolong strike

U.S. workers at Kellogg’s U.S. firm turned down a contract offer Tuesday that would see a 3% increase, so 1,400 workers at the company’s four U.S. grain plants will continue to go on furlough. labour.

The International Union of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers said the vast majority of workers voted down a five-year proposal that would also provide cost-of-living adjustments in the coming months. the following year of the agreement and maintain the employee’s current health care benefits.

Workers have been on strike since October 5 at factories in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee. They make all of the company’s popular cereal brands, including Apple Jacks and Frosted Flakes.

“Members have spoken out. The strike continues,” union chairman Anthony Shelton said. “The International Alliance will continue to fully support our distinguished Kellogg’s members.”

Kellogg’s said it will now move on with a plan to begin hiring permanent replacements for striking workers. The company employed salaried employees and outside workers to keep factories running during the strike.

“While certainly not the outcome we expected, we must take the necessary steps to ensure business continuity,” said Chris Hood, president of Kellogg North America. , said Kellogg North America president. “We have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to deliver the grains they know and love.”

Rutgers University professor Todd Vachon, who teaches classes on industrial relations, said he was not sure the company would be able to hire enough workers to replace those on strike in the current economy, and Kellogg’s has It can be difficult to find people willing to cross a line.

“By voting “no”, workers are strongly stating that they are not satisfied with the deal, but they are also signaling that they believe they have the leverage they need to win,” says Vachon. win more.

One of the sticking points in the negotiations was the company’s two-tier pay system that gives newer workers at the factories less pay and fewer benefits. Up to 30% of the workforce at grain mills are receiving less than that. The Battle Creek-based company says the new contract will allow all workers with at least four years of experience to move up to a higher legacy salary immediately, and some additional workers will increase in the future. subsequent years of the contract.

Dan Osborn, president of the local Omaha union, said the company’s offer would not allow enough workers to move quickly to higher wages, so some newer workers may have to wait up to nine years. to achieve a higher legacy salary. level. The proposed contract would limit the number of workers that could be paid each year to 3% of a factory’s total workforce.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to leave anyone behind. And we want a secure future,” Osborn said.

Union members also want to see the company offer larger pay increases to mechanics and electricians so Kellogg’s can better compete for those workers, Osborn said.

Victor Chen, a sociologist at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies labor, says he understands why unions are against the two-tier wage system because it is a divisive issue in the workforce. its ranks.

“A union depends on the unity of its members,” said Chen. “When you have a two-tier system – which has become common in American businesses – you are weakening that unity. It pits workers against each other.”

Sometimes during a strike, disagreements between the company and the union become acrimonious.

Kellogg’s went to court in Omaha in November to secure a regulatory order instructing workers on how workers should behave on machine lines because the company argued that striking workers were blocking factory entrances and threatening to Threaten replacement workers. Union officials denied any wrongdoing during the strike and said police never cited the workers as causing the problem.

But the workers have been trying to get better pay because they believe the ongoing shortage of workers across the country will give them an edge in the negotiations. Grain mill workers say they believe they deserve a substantial raise because they regularly work more than 80 hours a week, and they keep the mills running during the pandemic coronavirus.

Earlier this year, about 600 food workers also went on strike at a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka, Kansas, and another 1,000 people quit at five Nabisco plants across the United States. increase wages for workers.

In another recent strike, more than 10,000 Deere workers received a 10% increase and improved benefits, but those increases came after workers continued to go on strike for a month and rejected two offers from the company. The proposal Kellogg’s workers rejected was the first they voted on since the strike began.

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