Over 1,000 Kellogg’s cereal employees went on strike for more than 18 hours at various plants across the United States on Oct. 5, amid failed negotiations over the payment and benefits terms of a new contract for workers.
The food manufacturing company has been at loggerheads with union members for more than a year over over a dispute involving a cut to pay and benefits such as premium health care, holiday and vacation pay, and reduced retirement benefits.
The company’s existing contract with employees expired at midnight on Monday.
Workers walked out of plants on Tuesday morning and began marching outside, many of them brandishing signs reading “fighting corporate greed” and “support essential workers.” An angry-looking mascot of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger was also paraded by employees on strike.
Roughly 1,400 Kellogg’s cereal plant employees went on strike across across Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee over the wage disparities.
— Kate Merriman (@kateWGAL) October 5, 2021
Anthony Shelton, president of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union, said Kellogg’s has threatened to send additional jobs to Mexico if workers do not accept its new proposals.
“A lot of Americans probably don’t have too much issue with the Nike or Under Armor hats being made elsewhere or even our vehicles, but when they start manufacturing our food down where they are out of the FDA control and OSHA control, I have a huge problem with that,” Daniel Osborn, president of the local union in Omaha told NPR.
Osborn said workers plan to continue the strike, which had already been going on for more than 18 hours, noting that “the company has a pretty good idea on how long they are willing to hold out and we are going to stand fast as long as we have to.”
Kerry Williams, the union president at Landisville, Lancaster County, said workers want to “obtain fair and equal contracts for all.”
“We worked through COVID for two years. We worked 24/7, 365 days a year. We’re doing a lot of forced overtime to meet the cereal demand, but the members are tired of being taken advantage of,” Williams told WGAL.
But Kellogg’s, which brings in about a third of its sales from cereals, believes its compensation and benefits for U.S. cereal plant employees are fair.
“We are disappointed by the union’s decision to strike. Kellogg provides compensation and benefits for our U.S. RTEC (ready to eat cereal) employees that are among the industry’s best. Our offer includes increases to pay and benefits for our employees, while helping us meet the challenges of the changing cereal business,” the company said in a statement.
“The majority of employees working under this Master Contract enjoy a CPG industry-leading level of pay and benefits, which include above-market wages and pension or 401k. The average 2020 earnings for the majority of RTEC employees was $120,000.”
Kellogg’s also said the majority of its workers have no-cost health insurance.
The company acknowledged that it is “implementing contingency plans” to limit supply disruptions for consumers, including internal and third-party resources.
Kellogg’s shares were down 0.86 percent on Wednesday amid the strike.
Reuters contributed to this report.