Striking Kellogg’s workers to vote on tentative deal as lawmakers double down support for unions

(NEW YORK) — The Kellogg Co. said it’s reached a tentative agreement that could end the ongoing strike of some 1,400 workers, as lawmakers and even President Joe Biden have weighed in to support members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.

The work stoppage commenced Oct. 5. Union members are set to be presented with the new tentative deal this weekend and vote at the local level, with results expected to be released by Tuesday, according to Corrina Christensen, director of public relations and communications for the BCTGM union. The union declined to comment on the details of the new agreement at this time.

Kellogg’s said in a statement that the new contract includes $1.10 per-hour wage increases plus cost of living adjustments and more. The company also said employees at its U.S. cereal plants are among the highest paid in the industry, with average earnings in 2020 for “the majority of hourly employees” approximately $120,000.

“We value all of our employees. They have enabled Kellogg to provide food to Americans for more than 115 years,” Chairman and CEO Steve Cahillane said in a statement. “We are hopeful our employees will vote to ratify this contract and return to work.”

The strike at the company that produces breakfast staples such as Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies comes as an apparent labor shortage has given workers new leverage in negotiating with employers while the pandemic ebbs in the U.S.

News of the new tentative deal also comes after Kellogg’s signaled in a statement on Dec. 7 that it plans to “hire permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers,” saying the prolonged work stoppage “has left us no choice.”

The move to replace striking workers drew condemnation from Biden late last week, and progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced that he will be in Battle Creek, Michigan, on Friday to meet with union members.

“Collective bargaining is an essential tool to protect the rights of workers that should be free from threats and intimidation from employers,” Biden said in a statement last week. “That’s why I am deeply troubled by reports of Kellogg’s plans to permanently replace striking workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International during their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.”

The president called permanently replacing striking workers an “existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods.” He expressed his “unyielding support for unions” and urged “employers and unions to commit fully to the challenging task of working out their differences at the bargaining table in a manner that fairly advances both parties’ interests.”

In what many view as a show of solidarity from fellow workers across the U.S., one Go Fund Me page launched to support the striking workers has raised nearly $140,000 from over 3,000 donors.

Sanders blasted Kellogg’s in an op-ed published by Fox News on Thursday as the “poster child for the culture of corporate greed.”

“Last year, Kellogg’s made over $1.4 billion in profits. It paid its CEO, Steven Cahillane, nearly $12 million in total compensation, a significant increase over recent years,” Sanders wrote. “One of the reasons that Kellogg’s had such a profitable year during this pandemic was the extraordinary sacrifices made by their employees who, in significantly understaffed factories, were asked to work an insane number of hours.”

The senator lamented how these workers are now being treated as “disposable” after they were revered as “heroes” for helping feed America during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The workers’ struggle against Kellogg’s is a lot more than just 1,400 employees on strike in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Nebraska,” Sanders wrote. “It’s about what this country and our economy is supposed to stand for.”

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