Kellogg faces pushback from Biden, Redditors as union strike continues


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.

On top of the ongoing pressure from union employees and several Democratic lawmakers, cereal giant Kellogg can now count President Joe Biden and thousands of Redditors as opponents of its union-busting actions.

More than two months have passed since union workers at four Kellogg plants around the country, including 325 workers in Battle Creek, began striking for the permanent end of a two-tier wage system and more humane work schedules.

Last week, the 1,400 employees belonging to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) overwhelmingly voted to reject the company’s most recent agreement proposal. The deal did not offer an end to the two-tier system, one of the workers’ primary demands.

That vote was the sixth failed agreement between the parties since the union began its strike on Oct. 5.

Kellogg has since announced that it is beginning to hire 1,400 new permanent workers to replace the employees on strike, leading to many on social media, including some lawmakers, calling for a boycott of all Kellogg products.

That move was met with a statement from the president on Friday, blasting the company for its “existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods.”

“I am deeply troubled by reports of Kellogg’s plans to permanently replace striking workers from the [BCTGM] during their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations,” Biden said. “…I have long opposed permanent striker replacements and I strongly support legislation that would ban that practice.”

Biden added that he has “unyielding support” for unions, and will “aggressively defend” them along with their right to collective bargaining.

In response, BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton released a statement thanking Biden for his support of unions and condemnation of Kellogg’s actions.

Union members “will not be bullied at the negotiating table and are ready to bargain for a fair and just contract that rewards them for their hard work and does not sell out future generations of Kellogg employees,” Shelton said.

“President Biden’s statement sends a clear message to employers across the country that the White House supports union members and their right to fair collective bargaining.”

According to a map of nationwide strikes by the AFL-CIO, there are currently 25 active strikes and six authorized strikes in more than a dozen states, including Michigan.

The Kellogg strike is the only current strike in Michigan, as a local subset of the Michigan Nurses Association recently passed a new contract deal to avoid a strike at the Lansing-based Sparrow Hospital.

On Thursday, thousands of Redditors joined the fight against Kellogg via a post on the popular subreddit r/antiwork, which boasts more than 1 million members.

The call to action post, which currently has more than 65,300 upvotes, asks users to coordinate to flood Kellogg’s job application system with phony applications in order to “drown their union busting.”

“It’s time to clog their toilet of an application pipeline,” the post reads. “… Nothing is scarier to a business than organized labor. I submitted four applications. How many did you submit?”

The post includes real ZIP codes for areas around each cereal plant, as well as links to sample resumes and more tips to evade Kellogg’s system.

A request for comment from Kellogg was not returned.

As of Monday, there are no scheduled plans between the parties to return to the negotiation table.

Originally published December 13, 2021 on Michigan Advance. It is shared here with permission.

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