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Union Busting at Kellogg

Date: December 14, 2021

While it may feel like an entirely different industry away, and not something that we may see that affects us, we should talk about Kellogg. The workers have been striking since early October at plants in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The company’s response has been an attempt to hire “scabs” to replace striking workers, which is a direct assault on not only these Unionized workers, but all Unions and all of middle-class America.

How they got here: It is early 2021, there is a labor shortage and COVID-era cereal sales are booming. Kellogg announced more than $4 billion in gross profits. If there was ever a time for workers to regain what has been lost during prior periods of economic uncertainty, it is right now. During their negotiations, incredibly Kellogg first offered a proposal that would require all the new workers to be part of a previously negotiated “lower tier” category, with no chance of advancement. 

As way of background, feeling economic pressure in 2015, workers voted in a Contract that contained a two-tier wage system with a caveat that when a “higher tier” worker retired or left the job, a “lower tier” worker would advance into the upper tier 1 for 1.  In a story that is all too familiar, the negotiated language was subverted by the company and only about one worker now advances for every three vacancies.

For example: A line packager in the upper tier could make around $30 an hour, while a lower tier new hire makes $19.50 an hour dealing with the same dystopian working conditions.

Over the course of a year, the new employee would make $30,000 to $40,000 less for the same job, depending on the amount of overtime. The two-tier system has become a standard tool used to destroy the working class in modern America and one that many workers who have accepted it in a previously negotiated Contract during the past decade have come to regret.

Back to their current struggle, the Union representing the workers (BGTGM) states that the workers are not only deliberately understaffed but are forced to endure 72 – 84-hour work weeks, which includes mandated overtime. The company also employs a system that penalizes workers who ask to be off for a personal or family event. In comparison, Kellogg CEO Steve Cahilane earns nearly $12 million a year in compensation, or about 280 times the company average.

Kellogg workers have responded to management’s demands and poor working conditions by going on strike beginning October 5, 2021. Since then, the company has brought in strikebreakers (scabs) who they put up at a local hotel, paying $30 an hour while providing a per diem of $75. In a further attempt to bust the Unionized workers, last month the company began posting for job openings to permanently replace 1,400 Unionized workers who are on strike. Instead of negotiating with the workers for fair pay and working conditions, they spend their resources on replacing them.

Standing in solidarity with people they do not even know, but wholeheartedly support, users on Reddit, in an anti-work subreddit, have been encouraging the submission of fabricated applications to Kellogg in response to management’s efforts to replace the striking workers. Reddit users have been responding, even going as far as to plan to attend fake interviews to take a stand against the inequity of the situation.

When any group of middle-class workers, especially those who are Unionized, do better, we all benefit as a result. This is what solidarity looks like.

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