Mar 3, 2014
Union workers in Memphis, Tennessee have pulled together and continue to protest after being locked out by Kellogg’s Cereal in October 2013. This workforce of 226 voted NO on Kellogg’s “offer” for a new two-tier wage and benefits plan.
The New York Times reports workers do not want to undermine living standards for the next generation. “We have a good quality of life,” said a man with 28 years’ seniority. “Why should we agree to changes so our kids can’t have the same quality of life?”
Workers report that prior to the lock out, they had been required to work 7 days a week and up to 40 or 50 days in a row. Hiring more workers was clearly on the agenda. But the company’s proposal for how to hire new workers was met with a resounding no.
Kellogg’s “offer” said current workers would continue to make $28 an hour while all new hires would get lower pay and benefits. In addition, the company demanded the right for up to 100 percent of the workforce to be at Tier 2. Current workers understood the incentive would be there to push them out.
The Memphis factory produces Frosted Flakes, so workers have taken to wearing T-shirts with a picture of Tony the Tiger – locked behind prison bars.
Workers have organized and won local community support and financial help for their cause.
This use of two tier to attack Kellogg’s workers follows on the heels of attacks on union workers in the auto industry, at Caterpillar, and at Boeing.
Kellogg’s may complain that cereal sales are down, but as one worker put it, “They’re making a lot of money hand over fist.” In 2013, the company gave shareholders more than 600 million dollars in dividends. During this lock out, Kellogg’s board just okayed a 1.5 billion dollar stock buyback to hand more cash to shareholders.
On top of that, the CEO of Kellogg’s got a 90% raise in 2011. He gets 6.6 million dollars a year.
Workers say they hope the National Labor Relations Board will declare the lockout illegal. This is NOT where their hopes lie. In this David vs. Goliath fight – as in all struggles – the only hope for workers is to rely on our own forces, our own momentum, and our own creativity – and all those other workers facing the same drive of the bosses to lower everyone’s wage.