Striking Kellogg employees received an early Christmas present in the form of a new labor agreement announced Tuesday (Dec. 21) with the giant cereal maker.
“Considering we rejected a contract two weeks ago under threat of being permanently replaced, this is a Christmas miracle, for real,” said Kevin Bradshaw, media spokesperson for local members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union.
The nearly 1,400 strikers in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Memphis will return to work on Monday (Dec. 27).
Kellogg Chairman and CEO Steve Cahillane also celebrated the contract’s ratification in a Dec. 21 press release posted on the company’s website.
“We are pleased that we have reached an agreement that brings our cereal employees back to work,” said Cahillane. “We look forward to their return and continuing to produce our beloved cereal brands for our customers and consumers.”
Bradshaw said the company granted 100 percent insurance for all employees in the new five-year agreement. A $1.10-an-hour pay raise and cost-of-living adjustments across the board were included.
And alternative work schedules were taken off the table, Bradshaw said. Workers opposed alternative schedules because hours could vary from week to week.
Bradshaw said Memphis employees were especially pleased that new hires now have an avenue to reach top-tier pay.
“We weren’t asking for higher pay,” said Bradshaw. “We just wanted new hires to get the same opportunity overtime to reach topped out wages.
“So, we are happy about the new contract. A high level of job security will continue as it has in the past. We want new hires to have the same opportunities as we had.”
Kellogg concurred that the new contract provides immediate, across-the-board wage increases and enhanced benefits for all. The new contract also provides an accelerated, defined path to top-tier wages, a major sticking point for employees, and benefits for transitional employees.
The BCTWGM International Union called it a win for workers after striking employees voted to ratify the contract over the weekend.
Earlier in the month, an overwhelming majority of workers voted down a five-year offer that would have provided 3 percent raises and cost of living adjustments in coming years to most, but not all the workers.
An inferior pay system for newer employees was a sticking point in 20 prior contract offers by Kellogg.
The ratified agreement will allow all workers with at least four years of experience to move up to the higher legacy pay level.
Union officials had complained that previous offers did not allow other workers to move up quickly enough.
The workers remained unified, creating vast shortages of the company’s favorite cereals across the country, despite the efforts of salaried employees and temporary workers brought in to keep production going.
President Joe Biden encouraged striking workers in a letter posted on Dec. 17.
“You — the American worker — are the backbone of America…You have persevered through this pandemic and challenging economic times…My message to you is: Keep the faith.”
Biden also said that threatening to replace striking workers with permanent replacements “undermines the collective bargaining process.
Vice-President Kamala Harris weighed in on the company’s threat, standing up for workers’ rights in a recent tweet:
“It is wrong to fire workers for demanding better treatment and wages…Workers in America have the right to demand better.”
The Memphis plant employs 257 personnel. Bradshaw said workers are elated that insurance benefits started back immediately. They were cut off at the onset of the strike.
“Our insurance is back in force,” said Bradshaw. “And so is our 401K. We can borrow from it right now if we need to. Everyone is pretty happy about that. It’s going to be a Merry Christmas for us after all.”
(This story includes a report by the Associated Press.)