Kellogg’s union workers end 11-week strike after approving new contract

Union members ‘stood their ground’ as cereal giant threatened to permanently replace striking workers

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 21 December 2021 16:53
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Bernie Sanders rallies with Kellogg’s strikers in Michigan

Hundreds of unionised Kellogg’s workers in four states have approved a new five-year contract with the cereal giant, ending a strike and product boycott that spanned more that two months.

A spokesperson for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union reported that the union voted to accept a new collective bargaining agreement, closing one of the longest strikes in a year of renewed labor organising in the US.

“Our striking members at Kellogg’s ready-to-eat cereal production facilities courageously stood their ground and sacrificed so much in order to achieve a fair contract,” union president Anthony Shelton said in a statement on 21 December. “This agreement makes gains and does not include any concessions.”

The new contract includes dedicated wage increases and cost-of-living raises, a moratorium on closing plants through at least October 2026, and changes to a widely criticised two-tier wage scale.

“We are pleased that we have reached an agreement that brings our cereal employees back to work,” Kellogg’s chair and and CEO Steve Cahillane said in a statement on Tuesday. “We look forward to their return and continuing to produce our beloved cereal brands for our customers and consumers.”

Roughly 1,400 workers at four Kellogg’s cereal plants in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Tennessee – which produce products like Frosted Flakes and Raisin Bran – have been on strike since early October.

As the company saw exponential growth during the pandemic, with profits climbing by 9.1 per cent over the previous year, workers have demanded better working conditions, benefits and wages.

The work stoppages have “left us no choice but to hire permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers,” Kellogg’s said in a statement on 7 December.

The company stressed that “there is no further bargaining scheduled and we have no plans to meet” with the union.

Days later, the White House stepped into the battle, denouncing the company’s “threats and intimidation” against union workers.

President Joe Biden – who expressed support for Amazon workers in Alabama who campaigned to form the first union within the retail giant earlier this year – said he was “deeply troubled” by the company’s decision, adding that “collective bargaining is an essential tool to protect the rights of workers that should be free from threats and intimidation from employers.”

“That’s why I am deeply troubled by reports of Kellogg’s plans to permanently replace striking workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International during their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations,” he said.

In a statement on 10 December, the president called the announcement amounted to “an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods”.

US Senator Bernie Sanders also rallied with striking workers in Michigan last week.

“I’m standing here today because you have had the incredible courage right here to take on corporate greed,” he said on Friday. “And all over this country, working people are looking at you, and they’re saying thank you for your courage.”

The Kellogg’s strike was among several high-profile labour battles amid a nationwide, worker-led campaign to demand better wages and benefits during the public health crisis.

Thousands of workers that manufacture John Deere tractor products recently ended a month-long strike after the union reached a new contract with the company, and the union that represents hundreds of Nabisco workers also reached a tentative agreement with the snack giant’s parent company following two months of work stoppages in several states, nationwide boycotts and protests.

Earlier this month, workers at a Starbucks cafe in Buffalo, New York organised and voted to approve their membership in the company’s first-ever union in a corportate-run coffeehouse.

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