More than 200 Kellogg workers have been locked out for eight months now.
The NLRB filed the 10J injunction request under the National Labor Relations Act on April 11 but has not yet received a federal court date.
“We’ve taken it to federal court saying that the company [Kellogg] is violating federal law,” Gregory King, director of public relations for the NLRB, told BakeryandSnacks.com.
The NLRB investigation was on-going alongside the injunction request. It held the first administrative hearing for the case on May 9 – something the board was unable to comment further on, King added.
Getting employees back to work the priority
Shawn Lillie, managing partner of Memphis labor and employment firm Allen, Summers, Simpson & Gresham, said the injunction was a strategic move from the labor board.
“Think about it this way – each week that the workers are out, they are losing more pay. And so, what the labor board is trying to do, is stop that so the workers aren’t further damaged,” he said.
Once the federal court hearing was set, there were three things that could happen, he explained.
Firstly, the judge could grant the injunction, ordering Kellogg to end the lockout and bring the workers back. Secondly, they could deny the injunction, citing a number of reasons why they don’t want involvement. Or thirdly, they could take a middle ground, granting and denying certain aspects of the injunction.
“The federal judges in any kind of injunction hearing have a lot of latitude,” Lillie said.
BCTGM: ‘We expect to prevail in both forums’
Ron Bakery, the BCTGM’s strategic campaign coordinator, said the union remained confident in its battle. “We expect to prevail in both forums,” he said, referring to the federal court hearing for the injunction and the NLRB administrative court.
Baker said the injunction “further validates the seriousness of Kellogg’s labor law violations”, claiming only 40 out of 10,000 annual NLRB charges resulted in a 10J injunction.
Regarding the NLRB administrative hearing, Baker said it had “allowed the union to once again define the issues in yet another forum, through an NLRB attorney”.
Kellogg Company would not comment on the pending litigation but clarified that it wanted its Memphis employees back at work as soon as possible. In its web page dedicated to updates on Memphis negotiations, it wrote: "Kellogg is confident that all of our proposals for a new contract at our Memphis cereal plant are absolutely appropriate for these supplemental negotiations. Rather than litigation, Kellogg would have liked nothing more than to see our Memphis employees back to work with a fair and competitive contract – one that protects the wages and benefits of current employees and provides above-market wages for new employees."
Workers have been locked out since October last year, following rows over casual labor use at the ready-to-eat cereal plant. The dispute centered on a disagreement as to whether employment terms fell under a master contract that cannot be negotiated or a local, supplemental contract which expired last October and could be negotiated on. The Kellogg cereal plant has continued operations throughout the lockout.