Kellogg's, Ready to Replace Striking Workers, Reaches Tentative Agreement With Union

Kellogg's, which was ready to replace 1,400 striking workers, reached a tentative agreement with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union on Thursday.

Sunday, members of the union will vote on the new offer that has cost-of-living adjustments, as well as a $1.10 per hour raise for all employees. The agreement also maintains employees' health care benefits.

The results of the vote are expected to be announced Tuesday. Union officials declines to comment to The Associated Press on Thursday regarding the details of the new proposed five-year deal.

Late last month, the company said it planned to begin hiring permanent replacements for the striking workers. Kellogg's was keeping its plant operational using salaried employees and outside workers during the strike.

"We value all of our employees. They have enabled Kellogg to provide food to Americans for more than 115 years," Kellogg Co. Chairman and CEO Steve Cahillane said. "We are hopeful our employees will vote to ratify this contract and return to work."

The workers have held out for more partly due to the belief the ongoing worker shortages nationwide gave them leverage during negotiations. Workers also said they deserved raises for running the plants during the pandemic.

Kellogg's said a majority of its workers earned an average of $120,000 last year, but union members said they worked over 80 hours to do so, and only longtime workers can earn those wages. With the two-tiered system the company utilizes, newer workers receive less pay and fewer benefits.

Kellogg's, Striking Workers, Tentative Agreement
Striking Kellogg's workers Michael Rodarte, Sue Griffin, Michael Elliott, Eric Bates and Mark Gonzalez stand outside the Omaha, Neb., cereal plant on, Dec. 2, 2021. Kellogg's reached a new tentative agreement on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, with its 1,400 striking cereal plant workers that could bring an end to the strike that began Oct. 5. Josh Funk/AP Photo, File

The pay system has been a sticking point during the negotiations, and Kellogg's offer didn't change on that part of the contract. The company has said it will allow all workers with at least four years of experience move up to the higher legacy pay level as part of this contract. Union officials previously said that plan wouldn't let other workers move up quickly enough. The company has also proposed eliminating the current 30 percent cap on the number of workers at each plant who receive the lower wages.

The strike includes four plants in Battle Creek; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee that make all of Kellogg's well-known brands of cereal, including Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Apple Jacks.

President Joe Biden sharply criticized Kellogg's for threatening to permanently replace workers, saying that doing that would undermine the collective bargaining process.

At times during the strike, the disagreements between the company and the union have turned bitter. Kellogg's went to court in Omaha in November to secure an order that set guidelines for how workers behaved on the picket line because the company said striking workers were blocking the plant's entrances and intimidating replacement workers. Union officials denied any improper behavior during the strike and said police never cited workers for causing problems.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kellogg's, Striking Workers, Tentative Agreement
The workers have held out for more partly due to the belief the ongoing worker shortages nationwide gave them leverage during negotiations. In this photo, Kellogg's Cereal plant workers demonstrate in front of the plant on Oct. 7, 2021, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Rey Del Rio/Getty Images