Hundreds of unionists and community supporters from around Michigan gathered in Battle Creek, Mich., on Oct. 27 for a rally in support of striking workers at Kellogg’s in that city, as well as in Omaha, Nebr., Lancaster, Pa., and Memphis, Tenn. The workers have been on strike since Oct. 5 when their contract with the breakfast cereal giant expired.
In the shadow of Kellogg’s corporate headquarters, mechanic Trevor Bidelman, president of Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union Local 3-G, declared, “This fight that we’re having is completely about the future.” He described speaking to a rally of locked-out workers in Memphis eight years ago and telling a similar crowd that the battle lines were being drawn. “That lockout was the same exact topic that we are here fighting now. I told them that they had started a fight that would not go away.”
“Unfortunately,” said Bidelman, a fourth-generation Kellogg’s worker, “for the last 20 or 30 years, labor across the board has been avoiding fights and compromising repeatedly. That compromise has always come at the expense of the junior workforce and what has always been the protection of the union, which is the unborn. This is the time to stand up, put our feet down, and say enough is enough!”
The union wants to eliminate the two-tiered wage system, which allows Kellogg’s to pay union workers doing the same work different wages based on their hire date, with newer hires making considerably less than their counterparts. The “legacy” versus “transitional workers” ploy is a corporate tactic used to try to break down solidarity between workers.
Bidelman told Liberation News about the issues involved in the strike, including not giving pensions and premium healthcare to newer hires and getting rid of cost-of-living wage adjustments. “They want to take the union label off the box to basically not allow people to identify where the food was made. They want to make people use vacation time instead of FMLA [Family Medical Leave Act] … they want to cut away our holiday pay.”
Members from about 20 other unions were there supporting the striking workers, including auto workers, teachers, building and maritime trades, elevator and healthcare workers. They joined strikers in taking the street in front of Kellogg’s headquarters for a militant picket line after the rally.
A delegation from the Party for Socialism and Liberation came from Detroit to show their solidarity. After the rally they went to the union hall to deliver bags of apples and bananas to the workers and to support the strikers at the plant gates.
Feature photo: Trevor Bidelman, president of Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union Local 3-G, addresses striking Kellogg’s workers and supporters in Battle Creek, Michigan. Liberation photo: Kris Hamel