The 1,400 workers on strike against Kellogg’s since Oct. 5 are fighting for all workers. Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) are battling the company’s two-tier system of wages and benefits.
The cereal killers who run Kellogg’s don’t believe in equal pay for equal work. Newly hired workers ― called “transitional employees” by the company ― are paid around $12 dollars less per hour than “regular” full-time workers but have to pay more for health insurance. Forget about pensions.
Kellogg’s forced workers to accept two-tier in 2015 under threat of closing two of its cereal plants, including the one in Memphis, Tennessee. The year before, management illegally locked out workers in the city where Dr. King was assassinated.
Lower paid transitional workers now account for 30 percent of the workforce. Kellogg’s wants to be able to increase their number while still denying them retirement benefits.
Unequal wages for the same work harms solidarity between workers while Kellogg’s ran to the bank with $1.76 billion in profit last year. It’s to the credit of workers with more seniority and higher pay that they voted down Kellogg’s contract proposal that would continue this rotten inequality.
Among them was Marvin Rush, an electrician and member of BCTGM Local 252G in Memphis who spoke to Jason Kerzinski of the “Progressive” magazine. “We are out here fighting against the two-wage system,”‘ said Rush, “and for the next generation of workers to have the same pay and benefits.”
Kellogg’s doesn’t believe in an 8-hour work day and a 40-hour work week either. Forced overtime is a rule, with many union members working 72-to-84-hour work weeks.
“The worst is when you work a 7-to-7 and they tell you to come back at 3 a.m. on a short turnaround,” said Omaha BCTGM Local 50G president Daniel Osborn in an interview with Stephen Rodrick at Rolling Stone.“You work 20, 30 days in a row and you don’t know where work and your life ends and begins.”
In the runup to the strike Kellogg’s stopped hiring workers to replace those that retired or quit. According to Osborn there were “times during Covid when we were 100 workers under what we should have.”
Many union members think Kellogg’s did this to reduce the number of workers picketing to prevent scabs and strikebreakers from entering the plant.
Thank you Venezuela!
The workers at Kellogg’s feed millions. The cornflake capitalists showed how much they appreciate these essential workers by announcing they’re hiring 1,400 strikebreakers to smash the union.
When Kellogg’s placed ads on social media for “replacement workers,” union supporters across the country flooded the company with phony résumés that gummed up recruitment.
Workers are on strike in Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee and Omaha, Nebraska. They’re engaged in a David vs. Goliath struggle.
With inflation soaring by 6.8%, Kellogg’s offered only 3% annual wage increases. Meanwhile Kellogg’s CEO Steven Cahillane‘s pay package is $11,663,832. That’s 279 times the typical salary of workers.
President Biden said that he was “deeply troubled” by Kellogg’s attempted recruitment of strikebreaking mercenaries. Talk is cheap Mr. President.
As the commander in chief of the armed forces, Biden could order the Pentagon to stop purchasing Kellogg’s cereals and snack products.
Contrast President Biden’s words with the actions of President Nicolás Maduro Moros of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. President Maduro supports the workers who took over the Kellogg’s plant in Maracay City in May after they were locked out over a weekend. Milton Torres, a longtime worker, is the new factory president.
As FightBack! News reported, the workers now call the plant “Socialist Kellogg’s” and are continuing to help feed people in Venezuela. “The basic principles of our socialist enterprise are to dignify the work of our working class, increase the levels of production, guarantee that the equipment is highly maintained, produce good quality products, in a fair price and to be a self-sustainable company to contribute to the economic development of the country,” said the plant’s union president Orlando Contreras.
Just as these strikers are fighting for all poor and working people, so is the company’s strikebreaking being carried out for the billionaires and banksters.
Wall Street wants the workers defeated and humiliated. That’s the answer of the one percent to millions of workers who want union protection, union wages, union health benefits and union pensions.
In 1887, the Haymarket Martyrs ― labor leaders George Engel, Adolph Fischer, Albert Parsons and August Spies ― were hanged in Chicago for demanding an eight hour work day. It’s outrageous that over 130 years later, workers are forced to work 72 and 84 hour weeks.
Compulsory overtime is not only dangerous and life-draining. It also prevents the hiring of young workers.
The few hundred strikers at each of the four cereal plants are not only up against Kellogg’s. They’re up against all the super yacht and private jet owners.
The strikers need our support. Don’t buy scab cereals and other Kellogg’s products. Victory to the workers!
Photos from the picket line in Memphis by Jason Kerzinski
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