Representatives from the Kellogg Company have not made themselves available for questions from The New Tri-State Defender despite calls to get the company's viewpoint about the protracted labor dispute with members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union, Local 252G.
In a letter to employees dated Feb. 28th, Marty Carroll, senior vice president of KNA Supply Chain, and Chris Rook, Memphis plant manager, acknowledged the workers' frustration and disappointment and called it understandable.
"We are frustrated, too. It is deeply concerning to Kellogg that employees who have given so many years of quality service to this Company are not currently on the jobs in which you have served us so well. We want nothing more than a resolution to these negotiations so we can all get back to the important work of moving this plant forward, together. You have a choice in this matter, and we hope you choose to return to work."
Local 252G President Kevin Bradshaw said the letter from Kellogg's "disregarded the union and is, therefore, illegal ... because Kellogg's is attempting to contact the workers outside of the union's bounds, which is illegal."
Carroll and Rook devoted a section of the letter to explaining the "difficult business conditions" in Memphis and throughout the cereal network and why they believe the company's bargaining proposals represent the best way to overcome the challenges. They also set out to "clear up multiple mischaracterizations."
Here are key points made in the letter:
• The Ready to Eat Cereal market is challenged. Consumers are engaged in an unconscious migration away from cereal toward other breakfast options.
• Pounds are down, costs are up, with more manufacturing capacity than is necessary to meet the needs of customers. "This is especially true in Memphis, where these very conditions required us to lay off employees last spring."
• Even after the layoffs, the Memphis plant is not positioned for long-term, sustainable success, in terms of cost structure and operational flexibility.
Doing nothing is not an option
• Kellogg Company does not intend to abandon cereal. We can work to improve the RTEC business through continued brand building, innovation, and smarter, more effective use of supply chain resources. The Memphis plant could play an important part in that future success.
• Continuing down the same path will not make the challenges go away. Proposed changes to the existing contract would address the plant's cost structure and flexibility issues, while protecting outstanding wages and benefits.
• The Union rejected the proposals and did not make any meaningful suggestions or ideas, walking away from the bargaining table days before the expiration of the contract. Walking away doesn't solve challenges.
Proposals address challenges
• The Company's proposed contract is fair and competitive. It protects current wages and benefits and seeks only to pay new employees, who would be hired into an expanded casual classification, $6 per hour less than contractual job rates.
• Some form of casual concept has existed in the Memphis supplemental contract for years. The wage rate that casuals would be paid is already in the existing RTEC Master Agreement.
Multiple inaccuracies about proposals
• It is not true that the Company is somehow seeking to replace you with part-time, low wage labor.
• It is not true that the Company is insisting that casuals go without benefits.
• It is not true that the Company's proposals will diminish your seniority.
• The Company's proposals – and all of its conduct during these negotiations – are entirely lawful.
'You have a choice'
You have a choice – and a voice – in this matter. You can choose to work with and through your Union, to work with us, to position the Memphis plant for future success, while enjoying your current wages and benefits," write Carroll and Rook. "Or you can choose working with and through your Union to insist that the status quo is OK and continue to forgo any pay and benefits while the lockout continues."
Saying they hope employees choose the first option, Carroll and Rook write, "We hope that your Union provides you a chance to vote on the proposed contract – or at the least that your Union returns to the bargaining table with written proposals of its own, so we can continue to negotiate toward an agreement. If neither of these things happen, nothing can change."
(For more of the company's view, visit www.kelloggnegotiations.com.)