Kellogg’s was also offering cost-of-living adjustments down the road and to keep the striking workers’ present health care benefits in place. But the workers, who have been striking since Oct. 5, overwhelmingly rejected the deal, the Associated Press reports.
“The members have spoken. The strike continues,” union President Anthony Shelton told the AP. “The International Union will continue to provide full support to our striking Kellogg’s members.”
The plants affected by the strike are located in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Memphis, Tennessee. They churn out everything from Apple Jacks to Corn Flakes to Frosted Flakes.
Kellogg’s Workers Have Multiple Complaints
For its part, Kellogg’s said it will now hire permanent replacements for the workers who are on strike. It has kept its plants running during the strike by reassigning salaried staffers and bringing on outside temps.
“While certainly not the result we had hoped for, we must take the necessary steps to ensure business continuity,” Kellogg North America president Chris Hood told the AP. “We have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love.”
Workers at the Kellogg’s factories have multiple complaints. One of their dealbreakers is Kellogg’s two-tiered wages system, which means lower pay and skimpier benefits for newer workers. As much as 30 percent of the workers at those plants are on the lower tier.
Kellogg’s had offered to let all workers with four years of experience get the higher-tier wages right away, with other workers trading up later on. But according to Dan Osborn, the president of the local Omaha union, that wasn’t enough. He said some workers would take as long as nine years to get higher wages under the company’s offer. The union also wants better pay for Kellogg’s electricians and mechanics.
Labor sociologist Victor Chen told the AP that the tiered system is a commonsense target for the union because it threatens to divide its members.
“A union depends on the solidarity of its members,” Chen said. “When you have two-tiered systems — which have become popular in corporate America — you’re weakening that solidarity. It turns workers against each other.”
Strike Got Heated in Recent Months
Meanwhile, the strike has raised tensions at the plants, where the company claimed striking workers had been barring entrances and threatening replacement workers. In November, Kellogg’s obtained a court order with guidelines for how workers could comport themselves on the picket line.
Union officials said there was no misbehavior on the picket lines and noted that striking workers received no citations for making trouble.
Workers seem to believe that labor shortages around the country give them more leverage in the contract dispute with Kellogg’s. Whether they’re right remains to be seen.