By Sarah Ahmed
This past Tuesday, the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) announced that Kellogg’s workers had voted to approve a new contract over the weekend, ending the eleven-week strike of 1,400 workers that disrupted production at facilities in Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. The newly ratified contract is almost identical to the contract that workers rejected earlier this month, and contains none of the workers’ key demands.
During the strike, workers in Omaha and Memphis told Tribune that they were fighting to overturn the two-tier system, where all new employees start as ‘transitional’ employees. ‘Transitional’ employees have a pay rate that is roughly 40% less than what ‘legacy’ employees make and also receive significantly worse benefits. The contract does not describe a clear path for ‘transitional’ employees to become ‘legacy’ employees, and has no cap on the number of transitional employees, which in effect allows Kellogg’s to pay workers less and less over time.
Memphis workers on the picket line also told Tribune that the long hours without days off made it difficult to spend time with their families, with one worker saying that he worked 90 days in a row. The ratified contract does not address this grievance at all.
A Battle Creek worker told CBS-affiliate WWMT, “You want to find someone happy about this contract, you have to travel, because nobody here feels like this is a win.”
The strike saw support from social democrat politicians like Bernie Sanders, who only seek to delude workers into supporting the crumbling capitalist system that exploits them. Sanders and other opportunist politicians work together with the labor union bureaucracy to bring workers back into the fold of imperialism and prevent active and organized class struggle.
At the end of November, Kellogg’s announced that they would begin hiring permanent strikebreakers in order to intimidate the striking workers. During this key moment in the strike, BCTGM leaders attempted to surrender to Kellogg’s and negotiated a tentative agreement that maintained the two-tier system despised by workers. Workers maintained their resolve and voted down the contract.
The second agreement came a week and a half after the rejected contract. An Omaha worker told Tribune that many workers were not financially prepared to continue striking; picketing workers received only $105 per week in strike benefits from the BCTGM. In another blow to the workers’ struggle, BCTGM leadership returned from negotiations with Kellogg’s with another weak contract, further highlighting their role in weakening the demands of the workers on the picket lines.
However, the Omaha worker was optimistic about the future of their struggle. “We must regroup and prepare for the next battle.”
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