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A union fight at Kellogg’s has drawn in TikTok, Reddit, Tony the Tiger and Joe Biden

r/antiwork summons users to ‘clog their toilet of an application pipeline’ in solidarity with workers on strike

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 10 December 2021 21:29 GMT
Kellogg Co to Permanently Replace Striking Workers
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After Kellogg’s announced plans to hire hundreds of employees to replace workers who have been on strike for more than two months, social media users have pledged to flood job application websites and company boards with bogus applications in solidarity with striking union members.

Users on the r/antiwork subreddit channel – which has more than 1m members and recently mobilised to hack receipt printers to promote their group – have been summoned to send out applications, and a TikTok user said he wrote a code that automatically send false applications to job sites.

The post from user BloominFunions on r/antiwork has nearly 63,000 “upvotes”.

“It’s time to clog their toilet of an application pipeline,” the user wrote. “It’s time for r/antiwork to make the news as a formidable fighter for the average worker. Nothing is scarier to a business than organized labor.”

The post recommends users to submit applications at one or more websites, “pretend you’re a resident of one of the cities with a Kellogg strike … and make up an address and phone number … This way they can’t filter out our apps easily.”

Activist and developer Sean Black, who uses the handle black_madness21 on TikTok, demonstrated a code that he says creates an account for the online job posting board, fills in the form, and uploads a resume.

“Not bad for a day’s work, I’d say,” he said in one video.

He had previously written a similar code to help activists flood a website set up by anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, which asked people to submit tips alleging people who broke a recently enacted abortion law places enforcement power among private citizens, who are effectively deputised to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion in violation of the law.

Other social media users have also rallied to flood job sites with fake tips.

Earlier this week, hundreds of striking union workers at four Kellogg’s cereal plants in the US overwhelmingly voted to reject a tentative agreement on a five-year contract negotiated between the union and the company, extending a strike that started in early October.

Roughly 1,400 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union “have spoken”, union president Anthony Shelton said in a statement on 7 December. “The strike continues.”

The union is “grateful for the outpouring of fraternal support we received from across the labor movement for our striking members at Kellogg’s,” he added. “Solidarity is critical to this fight.”

Striking employees in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Tennessee produce products like Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Froot Loops, Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.

The company said it is “disappointed that the tentative agreement for a master contract over our four US cereal plants was not ratified by employees.”

Work stoppages have “left us no choice but to hire permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers,” according to the company’s statement on 7 December.

Job postings for those positions explicitly mention the strike.

“The unions representing Kellogg employees in these plants are on strike, and we are looking for employees to permanently replace them, joining hundreds of Kellogg salaried employees, hourly employees, and contractors to keep the lines running,” according to a job listing on the company’s website.

A previous job listing on the job site said the company is “looking for employees to cross the picket line” to “join hundreds of Kellogg salaried employees, hourly employees, and contractors to keep the lines running during the strike.”

“While these are temporary positions at this time, they could lead to permanent opportunities in the future,” the listing said.

“These are great jobs and posting for permanent positions helps us find qualified people to fill them,” Kellogg’s said in a statement. “While certainly not the result we had hoped for, we must take the necessary steps to ensure business continuity. We have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love.”

In a follow-up statement, the company clarified that “there is no further bargaining scheduled and we have no plans to meet” with the union following the collapse of the latest contract.

“Given that the strike will continue, our focus must continue to be on executing the next phase of our contingency plan,” the statement said.

On 10 December, President Joe Biden stepped into the debate, saying in a statement that he is “deeply troubled by reports of Kellogg’s plans to permanently replace striking workers” from the union.

“Permanently replacing striking workers is an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods,” he said in a statement. “I have long opposed permanent striker replacements and I strongly support legislation that would ban that practice.”

In a statement to The Independent, Kellogg’s spokesperson Kris Bahner said the company has “made every effort to reach a fair agreement, including making six comprehensive offers to the union throughout negotiations, all which have included wage and benefits increases for every employee on top of an industry-leading compensation package.”

“Because we have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love – as well as to the thousands of people we employ – we are hiring permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers, as is permitted by law,” she added.

“Interest in the roles has been strong at all four plants, as expected. We expect some of the new hires to start with the company very soon,” she said.

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