Kellogg workers stood firm in strike

February 3, 2022

From the January-February 2022 issue of News & Letters

Battle Creek, Mich.—On Oct. 5, 1,400 Kellogg workers in Battle Creek, Mich; Lancaster, Pa.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Omaha, Neb., began a strike over the company’s two-tier wage system. Currently, as much as 30% of the Kellogg workforce receives lower tier wages, creating a wedge within the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) workers.


Photo: BCTGM

Trevor Bidelman, president of BCTGM local 3-G in Battle Creek representing 325 workers, said, “At the end of the day, we tried avoiding this for a decade, but the company, as far as concessions, wanted a two-tier benefit system going forward and will not get off it.

“I’m a fourth-generation worker here, so I fully understand what we do: we work seven days a week, that’s what we do. In exchange for that, we live the American dream. At the end of the day, that’s what they want to take from all of us.” In September Kellogg informed the union that it would cut some 212 jobs in Battle Creek by the end of 2023.

“This company makes hundreds of millions of dollars in profit every year. We worked through this pandemic last year and were heroes one year ago, and a month ago they said they were cutting 174 jobs,” said Bidelman.

The company attempted to outmaneuver the union with an offer on Oct. 1. Bidelman explained: “The two-tier system had to be corrected. The company, unwilling to address that, tried all sorts of different ways to illegally bargain with our employees. They chose to put those offers illegally in front of our members instead of the negotiating committee.”


Three weeks into the strike, on Oct. 27, the union held a rally across the street from Kellogg Headquarters. As Bidelman observed, “Kellogg unfortunately has done enough bad stuff to people in the city to where their big name doesn’t really mean as much as they think it does. You really can’t throw a rock in the city without hitting a house with somebody that’s been negatively impacted.”

On Nov. 3, union negotiators rejected Kellogg’s “last best final offer,” saying: “That offer did not achieve what we were asking, a pathway to fully vetted workers without takeaways.”

Worker Travis Huffman from Battle Creek said, “I agreed to work here for certain things that they promised they would do with benefits and wages. You work weekends and occasionally get forced [to work] over 16 hours a day, and now they want to take those [benefits and wages] away from me.”


The strike became increasingly bitter when Kellogg filed a lawsuit against strikers in Omaha, accusing them of blocking entrances to its plant and intimidating replacement workers (scabs). Ten days later they threatened to hire permanent replacements. But the workers refused to give in to the threats and rejected another company offer on Dec. 5.

A week later, President Biden admonished Kellogg for its plans to permanently replace strikers, calling it an “existential attack” on the union. This palaver was followed a week later by millionaire socialist Bernie Sanders.


Sanders arrived a few days after a tentative agreement between the company and union negotiators was reached. During his ten-minute speech, Sanders railed against wealth inequality and corporate greed, but not a word about the desperate need for a proletarian revolution to abolish the outmoded capitalist system.

Also at the rally Bidelman perceptively called the latest tentative agreement a “Trojan horse…that’s been given to us, that’s going to allow us to basically harm ourselves down the road.”

Finally, on Dec. 21, Kellogg strikers ratified a five-year contract, with no concessions, according to BCTGM International Union president. The two-tier system was retained, but not permanently, as a clear path to regular full-time employment for lower tier workers was established. Also included was a plant closing moratorium through October 2026.

The last nationwide Kellogg strike was in 1972. It lasted 21 days. The strike this time, while workers rejected two tentative contracts, lasted 78 days.


One thought on “Kellogg workers stood firm in strike

  1. Thanks so much for writing about this strike. I’m heartened to see American workers standing up for themselves!

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