Kellogg’s workers go on strike in Omaha, other cities

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 7:43 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Union workers at the Kellogg’s plant in Omaha went on strike just after midnight Tuesday.

Contract negotiations between the company and workers failed to prevent the strike, so employees picked up signs overnight outside the plant at 96th & F streets.

Workers told 6 News obstacles holding up a deal on a new contract include the elimination of a path to full benefits and pension along with changes to Family Medical Leave Act benefits.

“We’re fighting for a lot of things,” Jason Lenz said, who has been with Kellogg’s for a decade as a mechanic but is also the VP of BCTGM Local 50G, the union representing workers.

Lenz says one of the main reasons they’re out is to get rid of the pay gap between full-time employees and transitional workers.

“It’s ridiculous the difference between the full pay and person working beside them making a lot less,” Lenz said. “...They’re doing the same work.”

The union claimed the company was not negotiating with the union committee but going after individual members instead.

A company spokesman told 6 News Kellogg’s was committed to negotiating a fair and competitive contract that reflected the contributions of employees and helps set up the business for long-term success.

Workers at plants in Tennessee, Michigan, and Pennsylvania also went on strike overnight. The plant in Omaha makes Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops, and Apple Jacks.

The path to get to this strike has been a long one. According to the union website, the master contract between Kellogg’s and the four local unions expired today. Back on Sept. 8-9, the union and Kellogg’s exchanged proposals for a new contract, and have gone back and forth until now.

“It’s not a decision we take lightly. Kellogg wants to take everything from us,” Lenz said.

Stephen Payne, an electrician at Kellogg’s for nine years, said the company’s offer isn’t good enough. He said he’s ready to fight for what they deserve.

“The last contract that we got forced through wasn’t what we wanted to begin with. Now we’re going to fight for what we do want,” Payne said.

Even if that means the strike has to last.

“I don’t think it’ll take more than a couple of weeks. I’m sure we’ll be out at least that long. I hope not any more than that, but who knows,” Payne said.

Each worker outside of the plan is ready for the fight saying it’s like David versus Goliath.

A Kellogg’s spokesperson issued a response from the company on Tuesday, referring to the company website for more information:

Kellogg Company and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union are engaged in negotiations to finalize a master labor contract for our four U.S. Ready to Eat Cereal (RTEC) plants. We are disappointed by the union’s decision to strike. Kellogg provides compensation and benefits for our U.S. RTEC employees that are among the industry’s best. Our offer includes increases to pay and benefits for our employees, while helping us meet the challenges of the changing cereal business.

The majority of employees working under this Master Contract enjoy a CPG industry-leading level of pay and benefits, which include above-market wages and pension or 401k. The average 2020 earnings for the majority of RTEC employees was $120,000.

Most employees under this contract have unparalleled, no-cost comprehensive health insurance, while less senior employees have the same health insurance as our salaried employees, but with much lower employee contributions.

Our proposals not only maintain these industry-leading level of pay and benefits, but offer significant increases in wages, benefits and retirement.

We remain committed to achieving a fair and competitive contract that recognizes the important work of our employees and helps ensure the long-term success of our plants and the Company. We remain ready, willing and able to continue negotiations and hope we can reach an agreement soon.

Kellogg's spokesperson Kris Bahner

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