Kellogg talks to resume Tuesday as union strike nears 8 weeks

click to enlarge Workers picket outside of the Kellogg cereal plant in Battle Creek, Oct. 19, 2021. - Laina G. Stebbins / Michigan Advance
Laina G. Stebbins / Michigan Advance
Workers picket outside of the Kellogg cereal plant in Battle Creek, Oct. 19, 2021.

Negotiations between union workers and cereal giant Kellogg are set to restart this week, as workers at the company’s four cereal plants in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Tennessee near two months of striking for better wages, better hours and the end of a two-tier pay scale.

Prior to the day before Thanksgiving, talks had come to a standstill between the two parties. Kellogg’s “last best final offer” to the union expired without a vote just before noon on Nov. 11 without plans for further negotiation, while the company announced that it was seeking to permanently hire replacement workers.

According to the company’s website, the union reached out to Kellogg the morning of Nov. 24 to offer new dates for negotiations. Kellogg said it agreed to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Kellogg strike encompasses about 1,400 union workers at four cereal plants around the country, including 325 workers in Battle Creek. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) employees began striking at midnight on Oct. 5 as their master contract with the company expired.

Last week, the Michigan AFL-CIO released a statement highlighting the pay disparity between Kellogg CEO Steve Cahillane and a median worker at his company before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“With the substantial pay disparity, CEO Steve Cahillane can afford to buy Thanksgiving dinner for all 31,000 employees of Kellog for the next seven years on his personal salary alone,” the release notes, citing the AFL-CIO’s annual Executive Paywatch Report revealing that Cahillane was paid 279 times more than the median worker at Kellogg ($11,663,852 in 2021 versus $41,815).

Picketing workers are fighting to get rid of a two-tier wage and benefits system between “legacy” workers and newer “transitional” employees, as well as better work schedules.

The last offer from Kellogg that expired on Nov. 11 had still included a two-tier system, albeit a more temporary version, along with enhanced benefits and wage increases for all employees.

A union vote was not taken on that offer.

There has been support from some lawmakers and officials, mostly Democrats, as workers battle to keep pressure on Kellogg.

“Good morning @KelloggCompany, please give your workers a fair contract,” tweeted state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) on Monday, adding that Crispix cereal “won’t taste the same” without BCTGM.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) retweeted Irwin’s video, asking Kellogg to “do the right thing … your workers deserve a fair contract! #Solidarity.”

Support has also come from Attorney General Dana Nessel, U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and Bernie Sanders; (I-Vt.) and more than a dozen state lawmakers.

Originally published November 29, 2021 on Michigan Advance. It is shared here with permission.

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