MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two hundred seventy-four Kellogg’s workers in Memphis are on strike outside the Airways Boulevard plant Tuesday.
This happened after the current master contract, as it’s called, expired at the stroke of midnight. This means the union and the company are having to go back to the bargaining table until it’s resolved. In the meantime, they are on strike.
The major point of contention: pay for the newer workers, as they could see a $13 an hour decrease. There’s also the threat of newer employees having to pay more for benefits.
Many of these workers are not getting paid as of midnight. Some people have been on the job for decades. Many are grandfathered in; it’s the newer workers who face possible changes, with a new contract.
It’s why the Union President, Rob Eafen stood with many of the workers surrounding him, saying, “We are the keepers of our brothers and sisters.”
In a statement, the union said the Memphis workers were part of a nationwide strike. There are 310 workers at the Memphis plant, with another 1,200 around the country; 98% of workers nationally voted in favor of striking.
“During 9 months of the pandemic, Kellogg’s made 390 billion in revenue and the top 25 executives make more than the 1500 workers combined. Workers are asking the company to lower insurance costs, and not to force a two-tier hiring system that would lock new hires into a low-wage path in perpetuity,” the union said.
Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner responded with a statement saying the company was committed to finalizing a contract with the workers and is disappointed the union has decided to strike. The majority of workers at Kellogg cereal plants made an average income of $120,000 a year, Bahner said.
The company provided this statement:
“Kellogg Company and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union are engaged in negotiations to finalize a master labor contract for our four U.S. Ready to Eat Cereal (RTEC) plants. We are disappointed by the union’s decision to strike. Kellogg provides compensation and benefits for our U.S. RTEC employees that are among the industry’s best. Our offer includes increases to pay and benefits for our employees, while helping us meet the challenges of the changing cereal business.
The majority of employees working under this Master Contract enjoy a CPG industry-leading level of pay and benefits, which include above-market wages and pension or 401k. The average 2020 earnings for the majority of RTEC employees was $120,000.
Most employees under this contract have unparalleled, no-cost comprehensive health insurance, while less senior employees have the same health insurance as our salaried employees, but with much lower employee contributions.
Our proposals not only maintain these industry-leading level of pay and benefits, but offer significant increases in wages, benefits and retirement.
We remain committed to achieving a fair and competitive contract that recognizes the important work of our employees and helps ensure the long-term success of our plants and the Company. We remain ready, willing and able to continue negotiations and hope we can reach an agreement soon.
For more information, please visit https://kelloggsnegotiations.com/ “
Organizers said the strike will last as long as it takes.
In 2013/2014 there was a lockout of workers at the Memphis facility, during contract negotiation that lasted upwards of 10 months.