Kellogg’s executive compared union leaders to ‘terrorists’ in leaked audio

Kellogg's CEO apologized and tried to distance the company from the statements

click to enlarge Kellog's Corn Flakes on display at an aisle in a supermarket. - MDV Edwards /
MDV Edwards /
Kellog's Corn Flakes on display at an aisle in a supermarket.

A top executive at Kellogg Co. compared union leaders to “terrorists” following a 10-week cereal plant strike, according to audio recordings obtained by The Intercept.

Ken Hurley, vice president in charge of union negotiations, made the statement about union tactics in a meeting last week with lawyers and “union suppression consultants”

“In my view, the union leadership at the bargaining table were behaving more like terrorists than partners,” Hurley said.

Hurley said union leaders were aggressive and emboldened by social media and other strikes last year. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM), which represented Kellogg’s workers, “really became somewhat intoxicated” by work stoppages, including ones at plants owned by Frito-Lay and Nabisco, Hurley said.

Unions also got support from Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who walked with workers along the picket line in Pennsylvania, and President Joe Biden, who criticized the company’s efforts to replace striking employees with non-union workers.

Hurley called Biden’s statement “an anti-Kellogg public release,” saying, “We were really getting it from both barrels."

In a written statement, Kellogg Chairman and CEO Steve Cahillane tried to distance the company from Hurley’s statements.

“We are just learning about these statements, as they were not authorized by Kellogg. We are embarrassed as a company — the comments and the tone in which they were delivered do not reflect the values of our organization or our position,” Cahillane said. “We sincerely apologize. We have a long and productive history of working with our unions. We fully expect that will continue moving forward.”

Hurley’s remarks drew criticism from Trevor Bidelman, president of BCTGM Local 3G, which represents workers at the Battle Creek plant.

“This is a company that keeps coming to the table with hundreds of millions of dollars of profit yet thinks it’s OK to take away from the worker. That’s what this strike boiled down to,” Bidelman said.

The strike ended in December with the approval of a five-year contract for the 1,400 affected workers.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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