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US senators demand Kellogg act fast to end Memphis lockout

By Kacey Culliney+

10-Mar-2014
Last updated on 12-Mar-2014 at 10:09 GMT

The senators are not the only people that have written to Kellogg CEO John A. Bryant calling for an end to the Memphis lockout. Civil rights organization the National Action Network, US congress organization the Congressional Black Caucus, the National League Players (NFL) Players Association and Minnesota congresswoman Betty McCollum have also acted
The senators are not the only people that have written to Kellogg CEO John A. Bryant calling for an end to the Memphis lockout. Civil rights organization the National Action Network, US congress organization the Congressional Black Caucus, the National League Players (NFL) Players Association and Minnesota congresswoman Betty McCollum have also acted

Five US senators have called on Kellogg to ‘act swiftly’ and resolve its Memphis lockout, which has seen more than 200 employees unable to work at the ready-to-eat cereal plant for over four months.

Sherrod Brown, Robert P. Casey, Cory Booker, Robert Menendez and Jeff Merkley sent a letter to Kellogg CEO John A. Bryant on March 6 calling on the cereal major to take action, fast.

“We ask that you act swiftly to find a fair agreement that enables these employees to return to their jobs,” they wrote.

The senators made clear that this lockout was impacting the lives of many. They said that employees had been “forced off the job” despite working for Kellogg for decades in some cases. They said this lockout had left families without health insurance, unsure about whether they could afford doctor visits or prescriptions and torn between paying for food or bills on a daily basis.

“This lockout not only harms the workers, but the entire Memphis community as well,” they wrote.

“…Kellogg’s workers work hard. They deserve nothing less than fair pay, benefits, and full-time hours for their work. We sincerely hope that you will end this lockout and let your employees return to where they want to be: at work.”

Senators and more call to end lockout

At the end of January, civil rights organization the National Action Network (NAN) stepped in to try and end the stalemate between Kellogg and its workers . Its Memphis Chapter president Gregory Grant wrote a letter to Kellogg’s CEO calling for a resolution.

In early February, a community action coalition was formed – The Coalition for the Organizational Protection of People and Equal Rights (COPPER). Members include state reps, local city councillors, professors, BCTGM union members and community activists. Spokesperson for the coalition Bishop E. Lynn Brown said: “Sometimes people, organizations and our political leaders tend to doze off as people without power in our community are pushed around, disregarded and exploited by those who possess the power. This coalition of leaders on every level is now here with eyes wide open and we have seen enough of the tragedy that comes from un-confronted power; no more.”

Since then, US congress organization the Congressional Black Caucus, the National League Players (NFL) Association and Minnesota congresswoman Betty McCollum have thrown their weight behind calls to end the lockout. Last month, all filed letters to John A. Bryant calling on the CEO to finally end the lengthy lockout.

Workers locked out of Memphis plant. Photo Credit: BCTGM

Casual labor concerns the trigger

Kellogg announced its Memphis lockout back in October, 2013 – a decision it said left the company frustrated and disappointed. The lockout was sparked following 13 meetings with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union (BCTGM) that failed to resolve concerns over the introduction of casual workers at the plants.

Kellogg wanted union members to agree to use of non-union, part-time workers at the Memphis plant – a move it said was necessary because of difficult times in a tough cereal category. The cereal maker said use of more casual labor would reduce costs, 

However, the BCTGM suggested Kellogg was “eating away at America’s middle-class” and was angry that its full-time employees would be replaced.

Kellogg has since clarified that new employees would be both full-time and union employees. At the end of January, Kellogg told BakeryandSnacks.com that an agreement on casual labor would not threaten full-time positions and urged employees to ask their union leaders to resume negotiations.

“Once we agree to a fair and competitive contract, we all can get back to the important business of keeping the Memphis plant moving forward,” said Kris Charles, vice president of global communications at Kellogg.

BakeryandSnacks.com is awaiting further comment from Kellogg in light of the most recent letters.

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