Biden ‘Troubled’ by Kellogg Plan to Replace Striking Workers
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Joe Biden said he’s “troubled” by Kellogg Co.’s plans to permanently replace striking workers, according to a statement Friday from the White House.
“Permanently replacing striking workers is an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods,” Biden said in the statement. “I have long opposed permanent striker replacements and I strongly support legislation that would ban that practice.”
The president urged both sides of labor disputes “to commit fully to the challenging task of working out their differences at the bargaining table in a manner that fairly advances both parties’ interests.”
The call from Biden increases pressure on Kellogg to find a solution to a labor impasse that has persisted since early October, with several rounds of talks failing to lead to an agreement. In February, the president took a similar stance amid a unionization drive at an Amazon.com Inc. warehouse in Alabama.
“We are ready, willing and able to negotiate with the union; we have been from the start and we continue to be,” Kellogg spokesperson Kris Banner said in an email. The company has “made every effort to reach a fair agreement” and is disappointed that workers voted against its latest proposal, she said.
The company has “an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love -- as well as to the thousands of people we employ,” she said.
Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union walked out at plants in Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee. The locations produce Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Froot Loops, Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes and other cereals.
In late November, Kellogg said it was “moving to the next phase of our contingency plans” and would hire replacement workers “where appropriate.” The company reiterated that position after the union rejected a tentative agreement this week.
Changes to the cereal maker’s two-tier employment system have been a sticking point in negotiations, with longer-tenured legacy workers currently eligible for better benefits and pay, while “transitional” workers graduate into the higher class as older workers leave.
Kellogg had proposed eliminating the transitional concept, offering immediate pay increases for those workers based on years of service. The union had said these changes, while they would offer higher pay in the short term, would keep workers from reaching full legacy compensation.
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