State News

Absent and silent: Kellogg strikers feel snubbed by Peter Meijer and GOP senator from Battle Creek

October 30, 2021, 6:48 AM

There's a glaring gap at union rallies in Battle Creek, where a strike against Kellogg is nearly a month old.

State Sen. Sean McCann of Kalamazoo, second from right, at a Wednesday rally outside Kellogg headquarters. (Photos: Facebook)

Workers have seen five state legislators and received a supportive letter from U.S. Sen. Gary Peters. But gestures of solidarity all come from Democrats, as Michigan Advance notes:

Notably absent in this show of support, however, are any Republican elected officials — even those who directly represent the Battle Creek area.

Neither U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, nor state Sen. John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, have publicly commented on the Kellogg strike. [Meijer's district includes Battle Creek.]

The strike began Oct. 5 at a plant in the cereal maker's headquarters city, where 325 workers walked out when a one-year contract extension expired. Union members also are on strike in Omaha, Memphis and Lancaster, Pa.

Signs at Wednesday's event in Battle Creek

The issues are job security and a two-tier system giving lower pay, higher health insurance payments and fewer benefits to newcomers. Negotiatons resume Tuesday with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents about 1,400 strikers in all.

Kellogg buses in temporary workers from out-of-state to keep making Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, and Froot Loops.

The Lansing-based news site quotes Heather Greene, a 15-year warehouse crew leader:

"Our plant in Battle Creek is probably 70% Republican. This isn’t a left or right issue. … There's no place for politics when it comes to a living wage.

"Even though we aren't hearing from the elected Republicans, this isn't about party, and I personally hope that they will see that and … realize that it is OK to support striking workers."

Dana Nessel at the union office in Battle Creek this week (Photo: Twitter)

A union local executive board member tells reporter Laina G. Stebbins that six Democrats have visited picketers:

♦ Rep. Jim Haadsma of Battle Creek
♦ Rep. Julie Rogers of Kalamazoo
♦ Rep. Terry Sabo of Muskegon
♦ Sen. Sean McCann of Kalamazoo
♦ Sen. Stephanie Chang of Detroit
♦ Attorney General Dana Nessel 

The Michigan Advance writer speaks with two other strikers. "You know … you can be conservative and still support your community and your town and the people in it," 47-year-old Damion Kreger tells her. He's a Battle Creek native who has been a health and safety technician at the Kellogg factory for 13 years.

(Union photo)

Michigan Radio posts this perspective from Trevor Bidelman, president of the union local:

"Kellogg's endgame seems to be really about pulling jobs out of the United States and shipping them elsewhere. So we've got to do something to make sure we put our foot down and stop that as well.

"The strike here is ... not just simply about what's going on at the Kellogg plant. It's really about the future and making sure that people across the board are done being exploited by corporate greed."

At its national site, the union posts this context about its contract objections:

Currently 30 percent of the Kellogg workforce would pay higher health care costs, lose access to retirement benefits, and never be able to attain the same status as current full-time Kellogg employees.

A two-tier system is a devious way for employers to slowly, but surely, take power from union members, their contract and their union. The company is trying to divide the workforce by asking the current workforce to sell out the next generation of Kellogg workers.

Read more:  Michigan Advance

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