Anger among Kellogg workers as work resumes after union betrayed after two-month strike
Kellogg grain workers returned to work in the United States on Monday after their two-and-a-half-month strike was betrayed by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International (BCTGM) union. The union imposed a concession contract, almost identical to the one the 1,400 strikers rejected three weeks earlier, allowing the unlimited extension of the use of lower-paid, second-tier âtransitionâ workers.
The contract was made under questionable circumstances. The counting of the ballots took place, not in local halls, but at BCTGM headquarters in Maryland. The union did not release any vote totals, or even a percentage breakdown, leaving open the possibility that the contract was “made” using voter fraud. However, local officials said the contract vote was near, with the Battle Creek, Mich. Plant alone resisting the deal.
The poll itself was carried out under the shadow of intensive online censorship by union-affiliated Facebook pages, which temporarily shut down completely ahead of the vote, denying workers the opportunity to discuss the contract among themselves and with workers. workers from other factories, or campaigning for no.
As management threatened to fire workers en masse in revenge for their rejection of the first tentative deal, instead, following direct intervention by the Biden administration, anxious to avoid an overly open confrontation, it relied on the bureaucracy of the BCTGM to impose all its requirements. This was made clear in a leaked management email, which bluntly explained that the economics of the new deal were identical to and plans to recommend it. While the threat to the firefighters received extensive media coverage and sparked popular outrage, the pro-business BCTGM maintained near-total silence on public radio, a clear indication that it was it. also determined to force concessions.
Whatever the actual results of the vote, any contract drawn up and proposed under such conditions, in which both the company and the ostensible workers’ representatives conspire among themselves against the workers, must be considered null and void and, of a purely legal point of view, inapplicable. Kellogg workers and workers in other companies must learn from this experience and develop new organizations, grassroots committees, to get their struggle out of the hands of the corrupt union bureaucracy.
Although Kellogg workers’ Facebook groups have since been unlocked, workers report censorship of critical posts continues. In particular, the union is determined to uphold the absurd fiction that the contract eliminates a “permanent two-tier system”. The use of the word “permanent”, repeated over and over again in public statements by the union and its supporters, is a sleight of hand, using the “gateway” not found to the first level under the new contract to cover the removal of any cap on the number of second-tier workers the company can hire.
While management estimates that “most” current transitional workers will move up to Tier 1 after six years, which is longer than the length of the contract itself, the actual length may be even longer given how the size of the company is. number of “” graduates “is defined as 3 percent of the total workforce. This means that if management increases the fraction of transitional workers in the workforce, they will have to wait even longer.
âYou all keep removing comments that tell the truth about the two-tier system,â a worker said on a local Facebook page. âIt’s not gone. THERE IS STILL A TWO-LEVEL SYSTEM. 4 years of waiting [sic] for the transitions to do the same as Legacy again.
Another worker denounced the wage increases in the new contract, consisting of a 3 percent increase for the first year of the agreement and only cost-of-living adjustments in the past four years. âYou would need a 21% raise just to make up for lost wages for not being at work for 11 weeks, not counting late bills or a possible increase in debt due to lack of income. It may be a victory for the union, but the workers have paid and will continue to pay the price. A supporter of the strike said: âThe workers still will not get what they deserve and that is a shame.
Other workers report that their health insurance is still deactivated by management even if they have returned to work. A worker from Memphis, Tennessee, said: âWe were told this morning that our insurance had not been activated because they had to see who all were coming back. Once they have a list, they will begin the process of restoring our insurance, but it may take a few days. They can certainly turn them all off at the same time.
A trained craftsman in Lancaster, Pa. Reported missing tools after returning to work, likely due to theft by scabs. Although these tools have been stored on site everywhere, they are the personal property of the tradespeople. âI lost about 5 screwdrivers and a Milwaukee ratchet. And everything is dirty. He added sarcastically, “So basically the company paid another company to come and steal and break stuff, [and leave] a mess? It’s just a good deal.
Workers also face the danger of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID when they return to work. In every state – Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee – where Kellogg’s four grain factories are located, coronavirus cases are on the rise. The biggest increase is in Tennessee, where the seven-day moving average more than doubled from Dec. 14 to 4,000 average daily cases. However, given the lack of reporting during the holiday season, the full extent of the spread won’t start to become clear until next week.
As rotten as the deal at Kellogg’s is, the broader implications of the strike itself, as well as the inclusion of limited cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments in the contract have sparked anxiety in circles. financial. This has been expressed most openly in a the Wall Street newspaper editorial, “The Return of the Wage COLA,” which highlighted the growing determination of workers at Kellogg’s and elsewhere to fight for wage increases to offset the impact of rising inflation, currently the highest in 40 years to 6.8%. Referring to the danger of a “wage-price spiral,” the financial newspaper warned: “COLAs … are forcing companies to pay for price increases throughout the economy even if their own sales fail. not followed “,
The reference to a âwage-price spiralâ is very significant. It refers to the 1970s, the last period of high inflation in the United States, which saw the biggest wave of strikes in the country since the immediate aftermath of World War II. This “spiral” was eventually tackled by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, newly appointed by President Jimmy Carter, who triggered a recession by raising interest rates to 20%. The ‘Volcker shock’ is a key episode in the emergence of the economic environment of the past 40 years, in which wages have stagnated or fallen as financial markets rose to new heights, while the union bureaucracy transformed into an open management agent.
However, as the Federal Reserve announced a series of low and escalating interest rates over the next three years, any move towards higher interest rates poses considerable dangers to the ruling class itself, given the total dependence of the financial industry on easy money guaranteed by a regime of low interest rates and money printing.