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Vol. 77/No. 43      December 2, 2013

(front page)
Workers in Memphis fight Kellogg
lockout after rejecting concessions

Militant/Susan LaMont
Locked-out members of BCTGM Local 252G. From left, Roderic Ashcroft, Tim Watkins, Perry Harris, Roberta Hall-Conway, local President Kevin Bradshaw and Audrey Curry.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — “We are in for a hard fight,” Gary Amerson, 57, one of 226 workers locked out by Kellogg Company at its cereal plant here, told the Militant during a Nov. 14 visit to the picket line. “We are not trying to get much. We’re trying to keep the company from taking away what we have.”

The workers, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 252G, were locked out by the food processing giant Oct. 22. The company cut off medical insurance for union members the same day.

The central issue in the lockout is Kellogg’s drive to introduce temporary, part-time workers and cuts to pay and benefits for new hires, establishing a two-tier scale.

Kellogg spokeswoman Kris Charles told the Battle Creek Enquirer Nov. 12 that future hires would be full time, but that they would be paid “competitive wages,” about $6 an hour less than current employees.

BCTGM locals at Kellogg plants in Memphis; Battle Creek, Mich.; Omaha, Neb.; and Lancaster, Penn., are covered by a common master agreement that has been in place for 50 years and was most recently approved in 2012.

A supplemental local contract at the Memphis plant expired Oct. 20. Local 252G says the company’s proposals should be negotiated under the master agreement, not the local one. But Kellogg gave Local 252G members an ultimatum to either accept the company’s “last and best offer” or be locked out.

Local 252G members, who come to work from nearby Mississippi and Arkansas, as well as from Memphis, have picketed around-the-clock since the lockout began, waving at the steady stream of drivers honking in support.

A week after the lockout started the company began bringing in replacement workers. Local 252G President Kevin Bradshaw, who along with the other local officers works in the plant, estimates that 50 to 60 scabs transported on buses with blacked-out windows are working on each of two 12-hour shifts.

The locked-out unionists are reaching out for solidarity from working people in the area, including civil rights organizations, churches and other unions. On Nov. 7, hundreds, including members of the United Auto Workers; Teamsters; city workers, electrical and other unions, attended a union-organized prayer vigil in front of the Kellogg plant.

“This lockout is an unacceptable tactic designed to deprive families of income and medical coverage in an effort to force the changes you seek through the imposition of unwarranted economic duress,” Dwight Montgomery, president of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, wrote to Kellogg President and CEO John Bryant Nov. 7.

“Bringing casual workers into the plant is a way to put us against each other,” said Norris Roberts, 55, a packaging mechanic at the plant. “I’m on the picket line for those who aren’t hired yet.” If Kellogg wins in Memphis, they will go after the longtime workers next, Roberts said. “That’s why all the other plants are looking at us.”
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On the Picket Line
Bangladesh garment workers fight for higher wages, safety
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