BCTGM: Human rights risk assessment could have prevented Kellogg Memphis lockout

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Locked out Memphis workers gathers outside Kellogg's HQ ahead of the shareholder meeting on Friday 25
Locked out Memphis workers gathers outside Kellogg's HQ ahead of the shareholder meeting on Friday 25

Related tags Will keith kellogg Kellogg company

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) has called on Kellogg shareholders to conduct a human rights risk assessment of the business; claiming Kellogg was in violation of such rights with its Memphis lockout.

The BCTGM union, together with representatives from umbrella union federation AFL-CIO, put forward the proposal at Kellogg’s annual shareholders meeting on Friday 25 at the company’s headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan.

BCTGM International president David Durkhee said: “We wholeheartedly believe that shareowners, as well as consumers, would benefit from a robust human rights risk assessment at Kellogg Company.”

“For a company whose greatest asset is its brand equity, it is imperative that the company not engage in practices that might erode that brand asset and hurt shareowner value. Perhaps if the company had done a robust assessment on its US operations it would have discovered that a potential public relations disaster was brewing in Memphis,”​ he continued.

David Durkhee, president of BCTGM International
David Durkhee, president of BCTGM International

Durkhee said if a risk assessment had been conducted, Kellogg may not have been “so overzealous in initiating its plans in Memphis”.

Union applies for $15m grant from shareholder; kids’ charitable foundation

BCTGM has also filed for a $15m grant with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation – one of Kellogg’s largest shareholders – to cover losses of its workers involved in the Memphis lockout.

The W.K Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930, operates independently from the Kellogg Company as a charitable foundation for children in the US, but holds substantial equity in the cereal firm.

BCTGM’s local president for the Memphis plant Kevin Bradshaw said: “This grant is for the children of the Memphis lockout, who are the innocent victims of this misguided, iron-fisted, profit-at-all-costs, global plan Kellogg calls ‘Project K’.”

The BCTGM said the grant would cover the cost of wages, benefits and health insurance lost in the first 184 days of the lockout for all 226 workers involved.

Bradshaw said that, “sadly”​ the Kellogg Foundation had been silent on the issue, to date, and claimed this silence was indicative of W.K Kellogg’s lack of true commitment as a foundation. 

Kellogg v BCTGM: Contract wars

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against Kellogg over the lockout following an investigation​, and a hearing has been set for May 5.

If the NLRB’s administrative judge’s ruling is appealed from either party, the case will be brought to the NLRB’s judge in Washington DC. If the decision made by this judge is further appealed, the case will end up in a federal court and ultimately onto the US Supreme Court.

Kellogg and the BCTGM have been locked in stalemate since the lockout started on October 22, 2013.

The lockout was sparked by disputes over employment contracts. Kellogg wanted to introduce casual hire to the plant – an issue it said fell under a local, supplemental contract that could be bargained on. However, the BCTGM has argued otherwise, claiming the issues over rates of pay, benefits and work rules for newly hired regular, full-time Memphis employees fell under a ‘master contract’ which could not be negotiated on until expiry in 2015.

For more coverage on the stalemate, click below:

Kellogg v BCTGM: Contract wars over Memphis lockout

What will this Memphis contract war come to?

Kellogg on Memphis lockout: The union has refused to meet since October​ 

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