After a nine-month-long illegal lockout, 225 workers will return to work Tuesday at Kellogg's cereal plant in Memphis, Tenn., where they make Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops.
Kellogg had attempted to shrink its skilled workforce and bring in lower paid, disposable workers – shutting out those who refused to accept the company's outrageous take-backs in the process. But the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a lawsuit against Kellogg seeking a temporary injunction. And last week Judge Samuel H. Mays Jr., of the Western District of Tennessee ordered Kellogg to end the lockout, reinstate workers, re-establish old employment conditions and bargain with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) in good faith.
UCW-CWA activists attend BCTGM Local 252G's special meeting celebrating the end of the lockout. "BCTGM 252G has been one of the anchors with UCW-CWA, Workers Interfaith Network, the fast food workers and others of building the Memphis expression of the emerging Tennessee moral movement to 'Put the People First,'" said UCW-CWA's lead organizer Tom Smith. "So it's very exciting to see the movement we're building be a part of winning such an important victory."
"This decision validates what the BCTGM has contended all along in this lockout," said BCTGM President David B. Durkee. "Our members and their families have been subjected to more than 280 days of unnecessary pain and suffering at the hands of Kellogg. We applaud Judge Mays for beginning the process of righting this senseless tactic that was brutally imposed on these workers and their families. We look forward to our members returning to do what they do best – producing a quality product."
The lockout began on Oct. 22 when workers balked at the company's proposal for deep pay cuts, higher health insurance costs and more outsourcing, modifying the terms and conditions contained in the contract that runs through 2015.
Workers, who are members of BCTGM Local 252G, immediately lost their paychecks and health insurance. But, because thousands of activists rallied to confirm a full strength NLRB for the first time in a decade, the federal agency was empowered to charge Kellogg with multiple violations of federal law stemming from the lockout this past March.
Mays ultimately supported the NLRB and union, writing, "Kellogg effectively demanded changes to the wage rates of new or rehired regular employees. Those rates are set in the master agreement. The good-faith bargaining required by the (National Labor Relations) Act does not allow Kellogg to use creative semantics to force midterm changes in the wages of new or rehired regular employees in violation of the master agreement."
This isn't the end of the fight. More than 120 Kellogg employees have now signed formal complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that the lockout was racially motivated.
And an administrative law judge has still yet to rule on the NLRB claims that Kellogg committed unfair labor practices. The case could potentially be appealed to the full board and eventually to federal appeals court. CWA President Larry Cohen will address delegates to the BCTGM 39th Constitutional Convention next week on fighting to secure our standard of living.