Kellogg Co. actively hiring, trying to replace striking workers after negotiations with union fall flat

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The Kellogg Co. is actively hiring new employees to replace the roughly 1,400 striking workers from plants that make the company’s well-known brands of cereal. 

Due to an ongoing strike over contract negotiations, the cereal maker said Thursday it's resorted to "tapping our global manufacturing network and expertise" in addition to "currently hiring to fill roles" at the four plants in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee.  

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In the meantime, production at the plants has restarted with "hourly and salaried employees and third-party resources producing food" while Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union workers remain on the picket lines. The employees have said they are fed up after reaching an impasse at the bargaining table that lasted more than a year over an assortment of pay and benefits issues.

Workers from a Kellogg’s cereal plant picket along the main rail lines leading into the facility on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Omaha, Nebraska. (AP Photo/Grant Schulte / AP Newsroom)

As of midnight on Nov. 11, Kellogg's "Last Best Final Offer," which it claims addresses the union's "primary concerns," expired. 

"Unfortunately, the union did not allow a vote. There are no further negotiations scheduled," Kellogg wrote. 

KELLOGG SAYS STRIKING CEREAL WORKERS CAN STILL WORK

Still, the company has a "responsibility to our business, customers and consumers to produce cereal, despite the strike," Kellogg continued. 

Members of the union have been on strike since Oct. 5, threatening the supply of namesake brands like Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes and Apple Jack and forcing the company to continue "operations with other resources" to try and mitigate any supply disruptions.

Even during negotiations, Kellogg said employees can continue working even in the midst of a strike and won't lose out on any benefits. 

Wyatt Elmore, a 14-year Kellogg employee raises his fist as honking cars pass by while union workers from Kellogg’s picket outside the cereal maker’s headquarters as they remain on strike in Battle Creek, Michigan, Oct. 21, 2021. ( REUTERS/Emily Elconin / Reuters Photos)

"We want to ensure all employees that you have a right to work during a strike, and this right is protected by federal and state laws," Kellogg wrote in a statement 

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Kellogg's efforts to boost its workforce – amid an unfavorable market plagued with a widespread labor shortage, inflationary pressures and supply chain disruptions – may be the least of its problems. 

In a new lawsuit, Kellogg is claiming striking workers with the local union in Omaha have even been physically blocking entrances to its cereal plant and intimidating replacement workers as they enter the facility.

The company also said in the lawsuit that people picketing outside the plant have threatened the lives of people working there, including "threatening that an individual’s wife and young children will be assaulted (including sexually) while he is away from home working with Kellogg."

Union workers from Kellogg’s gather with signs while they picket outside the cereal maker’s headquarters as they remain on strike in Battle Creek, Michigan, Oct. 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Emily Elconin / Reuters Photos)

The company issued its final offer last week, but the union turned it down saying in a statement that the "company’s proposal was filled with conditions and terms as to what was acceptable to Kellogg’s" but "are unacceptable to our members."  

"The Company’s last best and final offer did not achieve what union members are asking for: a predictable pathway to fully vested employment without takeaways," a spokesperson for the union said in a statement to FOX Business. 

The union is arguing that the "BCTGM Negotiating Committee has proposed a progression to the company’s two-tiered system based on time, defining a pathway based on the number of years an employee is with the company. Workers have stated repeatedly they want improvements to the Company’s transitional language."

KELLOGG'S SAYS UNION NOT 'EXPLORING CREATIVE SOLUTIONS TO RESOLVE ISSUES' AMID STRIKE

The union added that the cereal maker "continues to insist on take-aways" and that "there will only be an agreement if the union accepts the proposal exactly as Kellogg’s has written it." 

However, Kellogg is arguing that its "proposals address what the union has told us are their primary concerns" and even said that the union wasn't interested or willing to revisit its proposals or explore "creative solutions to resolve issues" in order to end the ongoing contract negotiations. 

First shift worker Travis Huffman joins other BCTGM Local 3G union members in a strike against Kellogg Co. at the Kellogg’s plant on Porter Street in Battle Creek, Michigan, Oct. 5, 2021.  (Alyssa Keown/Battle Creek Enquirer/USA Today Network via REUTERS    / Reuters Photos)

The company further claimed that the union rejected its final offer without even putting it before employees. 

"We asked the union to allow our employees to vote the offer," said Kellogg Co. CEO Steve Cahillane. "The union immediately rejected it and told us they would not put it before employees for a vote. We implore our cereal employees to demand their union put forth the offer for a vote."

Cahillane said the union "continues to insist on proposals that are unsustainable and unrealistic" and that "they’ve proposed adding costs that would threaten the future success of our plants and cereal business."  

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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