Images can be deceiving. Take, for example, the iconic Tony the Tiger. He seems like a big ol’ pussycat. But in reality, he’s the kind of cat who has given workers the following ultimatum: agree to onerous cuts that will decimate your middle-class jobs, or be locked out.
That’s what happened earlier this month when the Kellogg Company, the cereal and snack food giant, locked out more than 200 Bakery Workers Local 252G members on October 22 at its Memphis plant. Its goal is to replace its full-time workforce there with part-time employees who will make substantially less money and receive virtually no benefits.
“The work stoppage at Kellogg’s Memphis plant is not a strike by workers who are demanding more from the company,” stated BCTGM President David Durkee. “Kellogg’s employees, most of whom have given decades of dedicated service to the company, want to work but have been locked out of their jobs by a company demanding that they take less.”
The backdrop to all of this is negotiations for the master agreement at four Kellogg plants – Memphis; Battle Creek, MI; Omaha, NE and Lancaster, PA. During contract negotiations in 2005, 2009 and 2012, the company proposed introducing casual workers and alternative work schedules. As part of the 2012 settlement, which is in force, the union (an MTD affiliate) agreed to discuss these issues with Kellogg’s management during regular union advisory committee meetings. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for the $14 billion company as it is trying to obtain from its Memphis workers what it couldn’t get in master negotiations.
The union and the workers are taking the tiger by its tail. They’ve filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Meanwhile, they are asking all of their friends in the labor movement to make their voices heard. After all, Tony the Tiger isn’t the only one who can roar. The Bakery Workers believe union members have got to make him understand that this kind of crass behavior ISN’T “Greeeaaaat!”