LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — The Biden Administration sought to show its commitment to workers’ rights when Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited Kellogg Company employees on strike in East Hempfield Township, Lancaster County.
On Oct. 5, 1,400 Kellogg’s workers walked off the job from four plants nationwide in Battle Creek, Mich., Omaha, Neb., Lancaster, Pa. and Memphis, Tenn.
The strike affected 360 workers at the Lancaster plant, which makes cereals such as Special K., Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks.
The strike comes after workers accused the Kellogg Company of not offering fair terms in their work contract. Workers are pushing back against a two-tiered wage system, and pension and benefits cuts.
“The company is playing hardball. They want to see who’s going to break first,” said Kellogg’s warehouse worker Joseph Credito.
“Well guess what? I’ll stay out here as long as it takes, one day longer than they will.”
Kellogg’s has said the union is grossly misrepresenting them.
“Most employees working under this contract have industry-leading pay and benefits, and all have above-market wages and retirement,” Kellogg Company spokesperson Kris Bahner said in a video posted Oct. 12.
Secretary Walsh has been a vocal advocate for unions, having been involved with unions for 33 years. He is the first former union leader to become U.S. Labor Secretary in 45 years.
Walsh acknowledged the unusual nature of a government official offering support to strikers instead of businesses, but said he supported the Kellogg’s workers and company coming to a fair compromise.
“That’s why I’m here today, to support the workers that are here today, to let them know they’re not alone, that we hear them and we stand with them, and they understand that. Workers need to understand that people stand with them,” Walsh said.
Officials with the striking workers’ union, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union, hoped the Secretary’s visit would booster their negotiating power.
“When you have the Department of Labor coming, it’s serious business,” said BCTGM local 374 president Kerry Williams.
Both sides have reason to hope for a prompt resolution. The union and the company agreed to resume bargaining next week, on Nov. 2 and 3.