Kellogg's Sues Striking Workers, Says They're Intimidating Replacements, Blocking Entrances

The Kellogg Co. filed a lawsuit against its local union in Omaha, stating that the striking workers are intimidating replacements as they enter the plant and are blocking the entrances.

A judge was asked by the company, based in Battle Creek, Michigan, to order the Omaha chapter of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union to stop interfering with its business while workers picket outside of the plant. Along with those striking in Omaha, workers at Kellogg's three other U.S. cereal plants have been on strike since Oct. 5.

"We respect the right of employees to lawfully communicate their position in this matter. We sought a temporary restraining order to help ensure the safety of all individuals in the vicinity of the plant, including the picketers themselves," Kris Bahner, company spokeswoman, said Thursday.

The president of the Omaha union declined to comment on the lawsuit, The Associated Press reported.

In the lawsuit, Kellogg's said union members physically blocked the entrance to the plant while semi-trucks and buses tried to enter and leave. Additionally, the company reported that some striking workers threatened the lives of people working at the plant. This included "threatening that an individual's wife and young children will be assaulted (including sexually) while he is away from home working with Kellogg."

Talks earlier this month failed to lead to an agreement after two days. A deal the union refused to put to a vote was launched in a Kellogg's PR campaign to attempt to sell workers on its latest offer. Thursday, Kellogg's said the offer extended to the union had now expired. No additional talks have been scheduled.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Kelloggs, Strike, Lawsuit, Union, Omaha
Union members and supporters gather during a rally outside Kellogg's World Headquarters on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, to support workers on strike in Battle Creek, Mich. The Kellogg Co. filed a lawsuit against the union, stating that the workers on strike are intimidating replacement workers as they enter the plant and are blocking the entrances. Alyssa Keown/Battle Creek Enquirer via AP

Kellogg's lawsuit comes after a vehicle struck and killed a United Auto Workers member in late October as he was walking to a picket line to join striking workers outside a John Deere distribution plant in northwest Illinois. An Iowa judge issued a temporary restraining order against Deere workers in Davenport limiting their demonstrations to four picketers at a time.

Ken Hurley, the head of labor relations at Kellogg's, said in a video the company posted on its website that Kellogg's has tried to address the union's main concerns about its two-tiered pay system, wages and benefits in its offer.

"We have made every attempt to build a bridge toward a new agreement, but those efforts are met with rejections and more unrealistic demands," Hurley said in the video. "We urge the union to reconsider its approach and agree to engage in real bargaining for a contract to get our employees back to work and back to their lives."

Union officials told workers after those contract talks that they couldn't recommend Kellogg's offer because it was full of concessions.

The Kellogg's strike includes roughly 1,400 workers four plants in Battle Creek; Omaha; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee, that make all of Kellogg's brands of cereal, including Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks.

The company has said that it has restarted production at all of the plants with salaried employees and outside workers, and it is now hiring new employees at the plants. CEO Steven Cahillane also told investors earlier this month when the company reported a $307 million quarterly profit that Kellogg's stockpiled cereal beforehand to help weather the strike.

Workers at Kellogg's and other companies feel emboldened this year to strike in the hope of obtaining a better offer because of the ongoing worker shortages.

Besides the Kellogg's strike, more than 10,000 Deere workers remain on strike after rejecting two different offers from the tractor maker.

Employees are also less willing to compromise this year after working long hours during the coronavirus pandemic to keep up with demand over the past 18 months.

Earlier this year, about 600 food workers also went on strike at a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka, Kansas and 1,000 others walked off the job at five Nabisco plants across the U.S. At meatpacking plants across the country labor unions have been successfully negotiating significant raises for employees.

Omaha, Lawsuit, Kelloggs, Strike
In this file photo, workers from a Kellogg's cereal plant picket along the main rail lines leading into the facility, on Oct. 6, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. The Kellogg Co. has filed a lawsuit against its local union in Omaha. Grant Schulte/AP Photo, File