BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Kellogg workers’ nearly two-month strike in Cereal City may be over soon.
In a Wednesday update to members, the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union said it had reached a tentative agreement with The Kellogg Company after additional negotiations in Chicago.
The five-year deal would deliver 3% raises while maintaining current worker health benefits. Cost of living adjustments would be tacked on starting in the second year of the contract, according to an overview provided by the Battle Creek-based Kellogg Company. Union leaders say the adjustment was not included in initial talks at the bargaining table.
The tentative agreement also addresses another sticking point during negotiations: Kellogg’s two-tiered system of wages, which gives newer workers less pay and fewer benefits. The Kellogg Company said the agreement will allow all workers with at least four years of experience to move up to the higher legacy pay level immediately and additional workers would move up in the later years of the contract.
If approved, the deal will end a strike that started Oct. 5 when the company’s contract with union workers expired. The strike involves approximately 1,400 workers at seven plants nationwide, including four in Battle Creek.
One union leader, BCTGM Local 3G President Trevor Bidelman, is disappointed in the offer.
“In this climate, in what we were willing to do to kind of get where we are, that isn’t exactly a quite good enough contract,” Bidelman said.
Earlier this year, Kellogg’s told Battle Creek employees about 212 jobs at their plant would be cut by the end of 2023 as the company shifts cereal product to other plants.
“Currently, where we’re sitting at, this contract does not attain (job security),” Bidelman said. “Our jobs are still going to be leaving. They’re still going to be going to Mexico.”
Bidelman says a 3% pay raise alone was not enough for union members, given the economy’s circumstances and a high inflation rate.
“That 3% omits the $1.74 that we’ve been missing this last whole year because of the cost of living inflation that went into effect, and because of our contract getting rolled over. So, in a way, that 3% is making up about a dollar of that,” Bidelman explained. “We dropped a wage proposal very early on… We want to stay in the economical status that we are.”
Dr. Satish Deshpande of Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business says this addition to the agreement helps put more money in the pockets of employees, saying that’s important considering the current 6% inflation rate and its future unknowns.
“We don’t what it’s going to be next year. It could be higher. So the safe route is to put cost of living… (to) factor in that loss of wages,” Deshpande said. “It’s interesting to see it come back. I was surprised, but not shocked.”
In a statement, Kellogg’s does not directly address either portion of the deal, but says “the tentative agreement includes an accelerated, defined path to legacy wages and benefits for transitional employees, and wage increases and enhanced benefits for all.”
The union said local representatives will travel back to their respective plants Thursday and organize meetings to distribute details of the potential deal. BCTGM will hold a vote at all plants Sunday, according to an update posted on the union website. An announcement on the outcome of the votes should come no later than Tuesday.
“The beauty of this process is the membership gets to get informed,” Bidelman said. “The membership gets to know exactly what is going on. They get to know what their choices are, what the consequences of their choices… and then they get to choose.”