By Sarah Ahmed
On Thursday, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) announced a tentative agreement with Kellogg’s after two months on strike. Workers will vote on the proposed contract on Sunday, nearly a week after Kellogg’s threatened to permanently replace striking workers with non-union workers.
1,400 workers with BCTGM went on strike on October 5 at factories in Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee. Workers on the picket line in Omaha told Tribune that they went on strike in protest of the company’s two-tier system, in which new ‘transitional’ employees make roughly half the pay of ‘legacy’ employees and also have worse benefits. Workers in both tiers said that Kellogg’s requires them to work long hours, with one worker mentioning being forced to work 12-hour shifts 15 days in a row.
Last week, Kellogg’s announced that they planned to start hiring strikebreakers that would permanently replace the picketing workers. Kellogg’s has hired scabs throughout the strike, and their latest announcement was intended to intimidate workers into giving up.
Following the announcement, BCTGM and Kellogg’s returned to negotiations and agreed on a contract that meets none of the striking workers’ demands. The tentative contract maintains the two-tier system that workers have been fighting to overturn, and offers ‘legacy’ workers a meager 3% raise.
One union official, BCTGM Local 3G President Trevor Bidelman, acknowledged to NBC-affiliate WOOD-TV that the raise is even less when considering increase in the cost of living over the past year. “That 3 percent omits the $1.74 that we’ve been missing this last whole year because of the cost of living inflation that went into effect, and because of our contract getting rolled over. So, that 3 percent is making up about a dollar of that.”
One worker commented on the BCTGM Facebook page, “It’s shameful that I even have to vote on this steaming pile of garbage.”
The strike began with strong energy and demonstrations of solidarity from supporters of the workers. In October, a video posted on social media showed a group of bikers on motorcycles blocking strikebreakers from entering the Kellogg’s facility in Omaha.
Kellogg’s, backed by the US imperialist State, has used the legal system to intimidate picketing workers. This past Monday, a district court judge in Omaha sided with Kellogg’s and issued an injunction against workers in Local 50G, banning them from entering company property. Earlier this month, Kellogg’s sued the Omaha local in yet another attempt to break the will of the workers and force them to give up the strike.
The contract, swiftly negotiated after the company’s threat to fire striking workers, reveals how BCTGM’s conciliatory tactics have played into the hands of the Kellogg’s corporation.
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