For those of you who need that morning bowl of Frosted Flakes cereal because “they’re great,” you may begin to have a tougher time finding it on the shelves as work came to an immediate halt across a number of Kellogg Company’s U.S. cereal plants.
Roughly 1,400 employees went on strike yesterday, affecting the company’s hometown cereal factory in Battle Creek, Michigan, as well as factories in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; and Omaha, Nebraska.
The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union announced the strike and also said that workers in these factories produce Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, and Froot Loops. What disruption this strike will have on the availability of these cereals is not yet known.
This impasse between the cereal giant and the union has been one year in the making. At dispute are a number of pay and benefits issues that the two sides simply can’t agree upon. These include workers’ loss of premium health care, vacation and holiday pay, and reduced retirement benefits.
“For more than a year throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Kellogg workers around the country have been working long, hard hours, day in and day out, to produce Kellogg ready-to-eat cereals for American families,” said Anthony Shelton, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union to CNN.
“Kellogg’s response to these loyal, hardworking employees has been to demand these workers give up quality health care, retirement benefits, and holiday and vacation pay. The company continues to threaten to send additional jobs to Mexico if workers do not accept outrageous proposals that take away protections that workers have had for decades,” Shelton added.
This threat by Kellogg’s to send jobs to Mexico does not sit well with the 1,400 picketers. Daniel Osborn is the president of the local union in Omaha, and he said to AP News, “A lot of Americans probably don’t have too much issue with the Nike or Under Armor hats being made elsewhere or even our vehicles, but when they start manufacturing our food down where they are out of the FDA control and OSHA control, I have a huge problem with that.”
For Kellogg’s part, they believe the offer they brought to the table has been a fair one. They say wages and benefits will increase for its employees who Kellogg says made an average of $120,000 per year last year.
“We are disappointed by the union’s decision to strike. Kellogg provides compensation and benefits for our U.S. ready to eat cereal employees that are among the industry’s best,” Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner said in a statement via The Detroit News.
But Osborn knows the cereal company will do what it needs to in order to get the factories back up and running. He expects Kellogg’s to bring in non-union workers as early as this week to resume operations, so the supply of their cereal products isn’t greatly affected.
Kellogg’s has even acknowledged the fact that they are “implementing contingency plans” so as to limit consumer disruption.
Throughout the entire impasse and COVID pandemic, the plants have continued to work at their usual high peak efficiency. Osborn says, though, to make that happen workers were seeing 12-hour days, seven days a week just to be able to keep cereal production up as many workers were out because of the virus.
“The level we were working at is unsustainable,” Osborn lamented.
At the beginning of the year, Kellogg’s reported that it had 31,000 employees across the country that not only work in the above-named factories, but also at factories in California, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, and New Jersey. The number of picketers only represents around 5% of the company’s total.
Kellogg’s strike is not the first food workers strike that has occurred during the pandemic. 600 workers at a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka, Kansas hit the picket lines to protest their pandemic working conditions which included forced overtime or loss of job.
Nabisco plants in five states saw workers go on strike in August as they protested Mondelez International’s (Nabisco’s parent) plans to move some of their jobs to Mexico.
With no end in sight, it will be interesting to see just what Kellogg’s “contingency plans” entail and how long those 1,400 workers can hold out.
For now, if you’re a fan of any of the affected Kellogg’s cereals, you may want to head to your grocery store and stock up on a few, just in case this thing goes more sideways than it already has.