Advance Notice: Briefs

Battle Creek Kellogg workers picketing against contract givebacks are part of ‘Striketober’

By: - October 15, 2021 7:17 am

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) photo

Almost 1,400 union workers at four Kellogg plants, including Battle Creek, have been on strike since last week — and they’re part of a growing national movement that supporters like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have dubbed “Striketober.”

“After years of being underserved and taken for granted – & doubly so during the pandemic – workers are starting to authorize strikes across the country,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

She noted the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) workers striking at Kellogg in protest of job cuts and the two-tier wage system, as well as more than 10,000 UAW workers striking at John Deere and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) who are planning to strike.

There have been at least 175 strikes this year.

So what’s behind Striketober? Reporter Ahiza García-Hodges sums it up for NBC News: “After 19 months of balancing their health and safety working the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, many low-wage workers have had enough. They’re demanding increased wages, meal and rest breaks, better benefits and shorter shifts. From health care to Hollywood, nearly 100,000 U.S. workers are either striking or preparing to strike to improve working conditions.”

The BCTGM union representing workers at Kellogg plants in Battle Creek, Memphis, Omaha and Lancaster, Pa. says that after employees pulled long hours through the pandemic, the company is now demanding workers “give up quality health care, retirement benefits, and holiday and vacation pay. The company continues to threaten to send additional jobs to Mexico if workers do not accept outrageous proposals that take away protections that workers have had for decades.”

In September, Kellogg announced it planned to cut 212 jobs at the Battle Creek plant over the next two years.

“While this is the right thing to do for the business, any decision that impacts people is incredibly difficult,” Kellogg spokesperson Kris Bahner said in a written statement. “We are committed to helping our talented and dedicated employees, and we are devoted to working with them and their union to ensure they have outplacement assistance, resources and support through this transition.”

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) is among those who have expressed solidarity with striking workers across the country.

“Former union organizer here,” he tweeted on Thursday. “Safe to say I’m heartened to see the strike wave around the country. There’s nothing more beautiful than workers utilizing the power of solidarity to stand together and demand higher wages, better benefits and safer working conditions.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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