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Strike ends: Kellogg workers ratify contract

Photo of sign with Tony the Tiger that reads "They're grrreedy!"
Leona Larson
Striking Kellogg worker hoists his picket sign at a rally in Battle Creek on Dec. 17.

After almost three months on the picket line, the union announced today that striking Kellogg workers have voted to ratify the latest contract with the cereal giant and can go back to work two days after Christmas.

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) announced in a statement on its website that a majority of its 1,400 members in Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Omaha, Nebraska; and Memphis, Tennessee have approved a new five-year contract which will end the strike that began on Oct. 5.

The new contract includes wage increases and addresses to a degree the major sticking point in negotiations: the two-tiered compensation system that divides workers into "transitional" and "legacy" employees. Transitional employees earn less pay and benefits than their legacy coworkers. The new contract offers an accelerated path for all current transitional employees to reach legacy status within six years, but it eliminates a cap on how much of the workforce can be transitional at any given time. Under the previous contract, the lower tier could include up to 30% of workers. Under the new contract, there is no restriction on the number of transitional employees.

In an email in response to our questions about the two-tiered compensation system, Kellogg media spokesperson, Kris Bahner said “the ratified agreement eliminates the cap on transitional employees.”

In a statement released by the union on its website this morning, BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton emphasized that workers did not give up anything in the new contract.

"Our striking members at Kellogg's ready-to-eat cereal production facilities courageously stood their ground and sacrificed so much in order to achieve a fair contract. This agreement makes gains and does not include any concessions," said Shelton in the statement.

When a tentative agreement was rejected by workers in early December, Kellogg said it would proceed with plans to permanently replace workers. Backlash from that announcement brought criticism from President Joe Biden and prompted Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to rally with workers in front of Kellogg Co. World Headquarters in downtown Battle Creek on Dec. 17.

At Friday’s rally, local union leaders voiced opposition to the new tentative agreement that had been announced less than 24-hours before the rally began.

Credit Leona Larson
Trevor Bidelman, president of BCTGM Local 3-G speaking at the rally in Battle Creek on Dec. 17.

"We did this for the long term. This was not something that we did for the short term. This was not something that we were looking to fix for the next 3-to-5 years, okay?” said BCTGM Local 3-G President Trevor Bidelman to the large crowd. “The tentative agreement we will be voting on, on Monday, that's exactly what it's doing. It's a Trojan horse that's been given to us, that's going to allow us to basically harm ourselves down the road."

Kellogg Chairman and CEO, Steve Cahillane, was more conciliatory in a statement on Kellogg's website.

"We are pleased we have reached an agreement that brings our cereal employees back to work. We look forward to their return and continuing to produce our beloved cereal brands for our customers and consumers."

Kellogg spokesperson Banner said via email that “no striking workers have been replaced. Full-time employees hired during the strike will fill ongoing openings at our cereal plants, as needed.”