On October 22, 2013, The Kellogg Company locked out more than 200 employees at its ready-to-eat cereal plant in Memphis, following rows over casual labor contracts with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union.
Six months later, the battle rumbles on.
The union has refused to meet Kellogg, claiming issues over rates of pay, benefits and work rules for newly hired regular, full-time Memphis employees fall under a ‘master contract’ which cannot be negotiated on until expiry in 2015. Kellogg has fought back stating that proposals for casual hire fell under a local, supplemental contract.
"brutal and punishing economic pressure"
In a letter seen by BakeryandSnacks.com, addressed to the head of the Congressional Black Caucus congresswoman Fudge and dated March 25, the BCTGM’s Memphis head Kevin Bradshaw clarified its case against Kellogg.
Bradshaw wrote: “When the local union told the company that the issues of wages, benefits and work rules for regular full-time employees were already settled in the master contract, the company locked out the workforce and has been trying to use brutal and punishing economic pressure on them and their families in order to force them into accepting these contract changes.”
He said Kellogg’s bargaining demands were already settled in a binding agreement between the company and the union until 2015.
Any collective bargaining or change of that master contract ahead of expiry would be unlawful, he said, and the BCTGM expected the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to take action against Kellogg shortly.
The director of public relations for the NLRB Gregory King confirmed it had commenced investigating the case but could not comment further. Asked if the NLRB could explain the legality of master contracts versus local contracts, he said: “That’s what’s at issue here, and so we’re not able to comment.”
Kellogg stands its ground: Supplemental contract exists
Kellogg's vice president of communications Kris Charles told this site the proposals Kellogg had made were suitable for bargaining.
“We are aware that the BCTGM alleges that one proposal put forth by Kellogg during the contract negotiations at our Memphis plant must be bargained under the ‘master’ contract, not Memphis’s supplemental – or local – contract,” she said.
However, she added: “Kellogg is confident that all of our proposals for a new contract at our Memphis cereal plant are absolutely appropriate for these supplemental negotiations. In other words, they all can, and should be, bargained under the supplemental contract.”
The ‘master contract’, she said, covered four of Kellogg’s ready-to-eat cereal plants - Battle Creek in Michigan, Lancaster in Pennsylvania, Memphis in Tennessee and Omaha in Nebraska. However, she added that each of these locations also had a ‘supplemental’ contract – bargained locally and applicable only to the individual location.
“The supplemental agreements cover items that the union and the company agree should be addressed locally, while the master agreement contains items that the union and the company agree should be bargained at the master level and will apply to all four locations,” she said.
What’s more, she added that the local contract at Memphis expired on October 20, 2013 – two days before Kellogg initiated the lockout.
CLICK HERE for coverage on what Shawn Lillie, managing partner of Memphis labor and employment firm Allen, Summers, Simpson, Lillie & Gresham, told us on the matter.