Kellogg Sues Union Striking at Its Cereal Plant, Alleging Threats and Trespassing
(Bloomberg) -- Kellogg Co. sought a restraining order against the union that is leading a strike at its cereal plant in Omaha, Nebraska, accusing members of making threats and blocking access to the facility.
The lawsuit, filed in Douglas County district court, names the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union; the Omaha chapter of the union; and Dan Osborn, the chapter’s president. It alleges members have obstructed vehicles entering and exiting, trespassed and intimidated non-union workers at the plant. Kellogg claims that members have threatened workers’ lives and those of their families, followed them to their homes or lodging and used racial slurs.
As a result of the actions, Kellogg “is suffering and will continue to suffer irreparable damages,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday. The only remedy, the company argues, “is an immediate order of this court prohibiting the conduct described above.”
The union did not respond to a request for comment.
“We respect the right of employees to lawfully communicate their position in this matter,” said Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner. “We sought a temporary restraining order to help ensure the safety of all individuals in the vicinity of the plant, including the picketers themselves.”
The cereal maker brought in contractors and salaried employees weeks ago to resume food production at its plants in Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee. The locations produce cereal brands such as Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes. The strike began on Oct. 5.
Negotiations earlier this month failed to produce results. No progress has been announced since then. The roughly 1,400 striking workers are seeking better pay and benefits, while the company has said their proposals are “unsustainable and unrealistic.”
“The lawsuit by Kellogg’s against its striking workers represents yet another escalation in an already deeply entrenched battle over not only wages, hours, and working conditions, but in many ways the future of work,” said Todd Vachon, director of the Labor Education Action Research Network at Rutgers University. Vachon predicts that the decline of labor relations will lead to “more strikes, greater unrest, and at times open confrontation.”
Last month, Deere & Co. won its bid for a temporary restraining order blocking thousands of union members from picketing at a plant in Davenport, Iowa, during a strike over their compensation. A state trial judge said the workers’ conduct was “unwarranted, impermissible and unlawful.”
About 10,000 Deere employees who belong to the United Auto Workers affiliate went on strike on Oct. 14 for the first time since 1986, after the parties’ collective bargaining agreement expired and they were unable to negotiate a new contract.
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