Kellogg’s activist Travis Huffman Tuesday, standing near a road in Battle Creek, Michigan, had a sign with Tony the Tiger on it, and the phrase, “I’m greedy.”
Huffman said he had worked for the company for 13 years and stood with fellow union workers who began early morning strikes at various locations outside the company’s plant.
“I agreed to work here for certain things they promised they would do with benefits and wages,” Huffman said. “You work weekends and sometimes are forced to exceed 16 hours a day, and now they want to take those things away from me. I lost a lot of time with my family and friends because of those things, and I I’m not going to work less here.”
Work at all of the Kellogg Company’s U.S. cereal plants closed Tuesday as about 1,400 workers went on strike, but it was not immediately clear how much would disrupt supplies of Frosted Flakes or any of the company’s other iconic brands.
The strike includes plants in Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee.
Daniel Osborne, president of the local union in Omaha, said the union and the Battle Creek-based company have been at an impasse at the bargaining table for more than a year. Disputes include issues of pay and benefits such as loss premium health care, vacation and vacation pay and reduced retirement benefits.
In Battle Creek, union workers at the Kellogg plant on Porter Street walk away at 1 a.m. Tuesday, an hour after the company’s five-year master contract with the Bakery Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union expired.
Trevor Bidelman, president of the Union Local, which represents 325 workers in Battle Creek, said the workers “were here fighting for our future.”
“I’m a fourth generation worker here, so I totally understand what we do,” he said.. “We work seven days a week, that’s what we do. In return, we live the American dream. Live. At the end of the day, that’s what they want from all of us.”
Kellogg’s company spokesman Chris Bahner said in a statement: “We are disappointed by the union’s decision to strike. Kellogg’s provides compensation and benefits for our US RTEC (Ready-to-Eat Cereal) employees who are among the industry’s best. Our offers include salary increases and benefits for our employees, while helping us meet the challenges of the changing grain business.”
In 2017, Kellogg’s announced that it would be eliminating jobs as part of its project restructuring and cost-cutting program. Last month, the company informed its Battle Creek union employees that it would cut about 212 jobs in the city by the end of 2023.
The last time Union Local went on strike was in 1972.
Bidelman said he and his fellow employees are tired of seeing Kellogg’s job in Mexico, and are prepared to strike “one more day” than the company can.
“This company makes millions of dollars in profit every single year,” he said. “We worked through this pandemic last year and were heroes a year ago, and a month ago they said they were cutting 174 jobs.”
The Kellogg Company announced a stronger-than-expected second quarter in August, as net sales rose 3% from a year earlier.
However, Kellogg’s North America net sales declined nearly 7% in that quarter, while operating profit declined 22% versus 2020, when the pandemic helped fuel consumer demand for ready-to-eat cereals. .
Kellogg’s was founded by Will Keith Kellogg in Battle Creek in 1906 as the “Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company”. In addition to the Porter Street plant, Kellogg’s is headquartered in the city. The Porter Street plant is one of more than 50 worldwide, and the company employs 31,000 workers worldwide as of 2020.
Contribution: Associated President
Contact reporter Nick Buckley at [email protected] or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter: @NickJBuckley