Union workers at four Kellogg’s plants who have been on strike for months on Tuesday rejected a contract proposed by the company and tentatively agreed to by the union. 

Members “overwhelmingly voted” against the agreement, according to The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, which represents the 1,400 national Kellogg’s workers who’ve been on strike since Oct. 5. The strike will continue.

Kellogg’s said in an online statement it was “disappointed” the union rejected the contract and planned to hire permanent replacement workers.

The union is protesting the company’s two-tiered wage system, in which workers hired after 2015, “transitional” workers, are capped at a lower pay rate and fewer benefits than “legacy” workers. The system was introduced as a one-time, cost-cutting measure that the union says the company now wants to make permanent. 

This proposal “would have provided an accelerated, defined path to legacy wages and benefits for transitional employees,” Kellogg’s said, plus increased wages and better benefits. But employees said they don’t want the two-tiered wage system at all, and they intend to keep striking until they see a contract they like.

Workers rallied outside the Memphis factory on Tuesday after the union tallied the votes and announced the rejection. MLK50: Justice Through Journalism asked some employees how and why they voted on the contract, and what’s next for workers.

Vincent Mickens, package operator, legacy worker

Some of the items that were in the contract really weren’t up to what the union body was looking for. So some things did change, which was good, because they did have a pathway for the transitionals to change over to legacy pay, which is the right thing to do. Because that was the biggest fight, having two different pay scales. 

Candid portrait of union member and Kellogg's legacy worker Vincent Mickens

…My situation is different from the next person’s and I can understand them because if you’re just getting in the door, you want the benefits that I have. And it’s no more than right. The reason I voted yes is because the quicker I get in there, the quicker I can go ahead and retire, and then they can come on and do what they need to do. So the fight is all about them. Kellogg’s has been good to me and my family. I have served them well so the generation that’s coming behind me, they want the same benefits, the same pensions, the same insurance and the same pay that everybody’s having. 

…I feel that Kellogg’s will be back at the table… hopefully by next week. 

Kevin Bradshaw, unitizer operator, legacy worker; vice president of BCTGM Local 252-G

Candid portrait of union member and legacy Kellogg's worker Kevin Bradshaw

That’s why it’s called a secret ballot. You won’t know until we know… I really didn’t have a feeling (on how the vote would turn out). How I feel about something is not how everybody else feels about something. Obviously it got voted down so we’re here to fight one day longer, one day stronger. 

…I hope we continue to stand strong and unified in solidarity and try to get what everybody deserves and what everybody ultimately wants. And we haven’t had any conversations yet about what the real issues are, other than I know job security and some things like that, but we haven’t sat down collectively as a union to talk about everything.

Regina Plasky, operation technician, transitional worker and Michael Plasky, operations technician, legacy worker

Regina: I’m not happy that we’re still on strike. I’m happy for the fact that we voted against something that wasn’t benefitting for us, as a union, and the company’s trying to put in some things that just wasn’t right. So I’m ready to go back to work but at the same time, we’re out here striking for a reason. And this contract wasn’t it. 

Candid portrait of Regina and Michael Plasky, Kellogg's workers

Michael: I voted against it, too. It didn’t benefit us in the long run. The reason we came out here was to make sure that the transitionals were equal to the legacy and this contract didn’t offer that. They offered an opportunity for some to be transitioned over a little bit every year, but they also wanted to bring in more transitionals without a cap to it. … And that doesn’t benefit us in the long run because they still have a bunch of transitionals. We don’t want the transitional language at all. We’ll work with it, but this contract didn’t benefit us in that way.

…I think there’s a better chance of us reaching an agreement. 

Regina: I hope so.

Michael: We have to show them that we’re not just going to accept anything. I mean they want more money in the pockets of the shareholders and the upper management, but they’re taking from the bottom, which is what they consider us –  the bottom – and it’s just like anything else. If you swipe away at the bottom, eventually the top is going to fall. Well, we’re pushing them.

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