“We’re not there just yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been a long, hard road. When we were locked out back in October last year, our medical insurance was cut off that same day. My wife has been so sick because we couldn’t afford to get her medication. Just today, we spent $500 on a 30-day supply for one medicine. She hasn’t consistently had what she needed. Her health is so bad now. We’ve just about gone through what we saved up…but this is good news from the courts. After July 10th, this should all be over. Thank God…”
– Locked-out employee on the Kellogg’s picket line
Two rulings on Monday (June 23rd) against the Kellogg’s Company dealt virtual death blows in the legal battle against 226 Memphis workers locked out of their jobs since October, 2013.
As members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 252G, the workers are represented by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on two main issues, including Kellogg’s District Court petition to dismiss the request for an injunction requiring the company to end the lockout.
“Kellogg’s asked the court to throw out the injunction request because they said the Labor Board had no authority to petition the court in the Memphis Region,” said Kevin Bradshaw, president of the Local 252G. “Judge Samuel Mays shot that request down.
Kellogg’s also wanted the court to disallow thousands of pages of documents and testimony of workers that the union presented in its effort to prove the illegality of the lockout, said Bradshaw.
“Judge Mays refused that request also. So this has been a good week for us. We had until June 30th to get all our papers in to the District Court. Kellogg’s has until July 10th to submit refuting documentation. It looks like this lockout is about to be over, thank God.”
In a document submitted to the District Court on behalf of the Kellogg’s Company, Jon Smucker, senior director of Network Optimization, Kellogg North America, declared that he “shares the responsibility for managing the operational costs and logistics associated with Kellogg’s bargaining proposals” for various plants, including the Memphis location.
“(If) the Memphis plant is enjoined from implementing its bargaining proposals, it will lose an estimated $8.4 million in savings over a 36-month period,” Smucker asserts in the submitted document.
Smucker’s calculations are based on the hiring of “133 new casual employees”: 60 new hires in the first 12 months, 118 new hires after 24 months, and 133 new hires after 36 months. Workers would no longer be entitled to full benefits, but Smucker contends the Memphis plant would “increase jobs” and be “a much more secure plant.”
Bradshaw and Local 252G officials noted that the company makes no acknowledgment of the locked out union workers, or any “substantial action to make each family whole.”
“Kellogg’s has no intention of its own accord to make things right,” said Bradshaw. “The company has complained about how much money it has cost to lock us out, like it was our fault. Multiply all the numbers by eight months, and you would be amazed.
“On scabs who have replaced us, Kellogg’s submitted figures to the court of what has been spent: $2.4 million on their food, but they never provided us a meal for our families; $4 million for rooms at the Hilton for them, but some of our locked our employees have lost their homes and are now homeless. We pray that God will rectify all the wrong when we have our day in court.”
BCTGM International President David Durkee said, “We are pleased with Judge Mays’ decisions and we remain confident that our members and their families will soon have further legal validation that upholds our contention from day-one concerning the illegality of Kellogg’s actions in Memphis.
“The unnecessary suffering imposed by Kellogg on these 226 families has occurred for one reason and one reason alone; Kellogg’s insatiable thirst for profit even if it means destroying the very lives of its employees and their families to achieve it.”
On a specially designed website (www.kelloggnegotiations.com) to address the Memphis lockout issues, Kellogg’s has posted the following information regarding what it has called “Fact” and “Myth.”
• FACT: Kellogg is operating in an increasingly tough ready-to-eat-cereal category, which has led to excess capacity and an unsustainable cost structure at Kellogg’s U.S. cereal plants, including in Memphis.
• FACT: Kellogg has offered a solution that will best position the Memphis plant for future sustainability, while protecting the exceptional salary and benefits current employees receive.
• FACT: Under this proposed contract, current employees will continue to enjoy their good wages and benefits, which amount to an annual average salary with overtime of nearly $100,000 and healthcare coverage for employee and spouse at no contribution from them for life.
• FACT: New employees would also earn a good living – the proposed $22 per hour is still 17 percent-42 percent higher than similar Memphis jobs.
• FACT: Union leadership has not provided any proposals in writing and has not allowed its membership the opportunity to vote to keep their strong pay
• FACT: All of Kellogg Company’s proposals can and should be bargained as part of the supplemental contract negotiations.
• MYTH: According to this proposed contract, current employees would lose seniority to new hires. Not true. Current employees would maintain seniority.
• MYTH: This proposed contract and the hiring of new employees would put the job security of current employees in jeopardy. False. Hiring new employees would not affect the job security of others.
• MYTH: New employees would not be provided healthcare benefits. False. Although not part of our formal proposals, we did have discussions with the Union about Kellogg’s willingness to explore providing healthcare insurance and 401(k) to new, “casual,” employees.
• MYTH: Based on this proposed contract, new employees would be part-time workers. Untrue. New employees would be full-time workers.
• MYTH: Union leaders continue to work toward a resolution. False. Union leaders left the table days before negotiations were set to end, and they never returned.
• MYTH: Kellogg is unwilling to meet or work with the union to reach an agreement. Not true. Through a mediator, Kellogg offers every week to meet with the union. As of yet, the Union has not accepted the invitation.