By Josh Funk
Kellogg's has reached a new tentative agreement with its 1,400 striking cereal plant workers that could bring an end to the strike that began Oct. 5.
Members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union will vote on the new offer that includes cost-of-living adjustments and a $1.10 per hour raise for all employees on Sunday. Last week, the union overwhelmingly rejected a previous offer from the Battle Creek, Michigan-based company.
“We value all of our employees. They have enabled Kellogg to provide food to Americans for more than 115 years,” said Kellogg Co. Chairman and CEO Steve Cahillane. “We are hopeful our employees will vote to ratify this contract and return to work.”
The results of the contract vote are expected to be released Tuesday. Union officials didn't immediately respond Thursday to questions about the agreement.
Kellogg’s said most workers at its cereal plants earned an average of $120,000 last year although union members have said they work more than 80 hours a week to earn that, and those wages are only available to longtime workers. Under the two-tiered pay system the company uses, newer workers are paid less and receive fewer benefits.
That pay system has been a sticking point during the negotiations, and Kellogg’s offer didn’t change on that part of the contract. The company has said it will allow all workers with at least four years of experience move up to the higher legacy pay level as part of this contract. Union officials previously said that plan wouldn’t let other workers move up quickly enough. The company has also proposed eliminating the current 30% cap on the number of workers at each plant who receive the lower wages.
The new agreement will also preserve employees health care benefits.
The strike includes four plants in Battle Creek; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee that make all of Kellogg’s well-known brands of cereal, including Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Apple Jacks.
The workers have been holding out for more partly because they believe the ongoing worker shortages across the country gave them leverage in the negotiations. And workers have said they deserve raises after keeping the plants running throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the strike Kellogg's has been trying to keep its plants operating with salaried employees and outside workers, and the company said late last month that it planned to start hiring permanent replacements for the striking workers.
President Joe Biden sharply criticized Kellogg's for threatening to permanently replace workers, saying that doing that would undermine the collective bargaining process.
At times during the strike, the disagreements between the company and the union have turned bitter. Kellogg's went to court in Omaha in November to secure an order that set guidelines for how workers behaved on the picket line because the company said striking workers were blocking the plant’s entrances and intimidating replacement workers. Union officials denied any improper behavior during the strike and said police never cited workers for causing problems.